Peter would like to thank Glyn Heatley of Palladium Group for his contribution to this column.

Last month, I discussed the broad issues that must be addressed in building an information-empowered organization and described five steps to achieve that state. The first step is mobilization. To mobilize, a company must have a clear vision of its desired future state, conduct a comprehensive assessment of its current state and create an action plan to move from the current to the future state. The target state was discussed in the September 2007 DM Review column “Best-Practice Analytic Architecture to Support Business Strategy” by Barnaby Donlon and myself. The physical analytic architecture we defined featured four core areas: analytic applications, data management, IT enablement and data integration.

While it is sometimes easy to depict a “best practice” state, it is often more difficult for organizations to assess their current state and identify steps needed to reach the future state. Most companies have many components of the processes and architecture defined as best practice, but they have not identified the opportunities to leverage these components to build an optimal analytic architecture. The diagnostic framework depicted in Figure 1 can be leveraged to do so.

To provide the current state assessment of each component and pinpoint areas of improvement opportunity, the framework is broken down into more detailed subcomponents for evaluation. Through the use of “shift” diagrams we are able to visually represent the level of maturity for each subcomponent once evaluated. As an example, Figure 2 depicts the shift diagram for the data integration framework component and the areas of evaluation therein. The level of maturity is based on a scale, a “base state” (the “gatekeeper”) through to the ideal state (“catalyst”).

For each of the evaluative criteria, a more detailed analysis is conducted, with the framework including a definition on how each perspective is examined to come to the conclusions found in Figure 2. Analysis of subcomponents allows us to assess the overall maturity of each parent component of the framework and thus the current state of an organization’s information architecture. The framework utilizes four competency stages, which start with a reactive perspective and mature to a more proactive perspective. These levels of maturity are described as:

  1. Gatekeeper: The organization is primarily reactive, meeting the basic needs in each area but only to the extent necessary to run the business.
  2. Enabler: The organization has more competencies that enable more efficient core business processes. The organization is still not able to expand processes beyond those necessary.
  3. Business partner: The analytic architecture and processes are able to meet a higher level of demand from the business. Because operational process needs are met efficiently, the business is capable of creating more forward-thinking, strategic processes that help drive performance.
  4. Catalyst: The business is being proactively notified of opportunities to improve performance. The systems and processes encompassed in the analytic architecture are actually driving management to new conclusions and actions to improve performance.

This general definition for each level of maturity is applied more specifically to each of the four core areas of the analytic architecture and the overall objective of business enablement, to form a comprehensive diagnostic matrix. This matrix allows each area to be evaluated independently, as each may be more or less advanced than another. For example, an organization may have invested in a world-class enterprise analytical platform, installed it properly and become trained on its use, making the company stage 4 (catalyst) in the analytic platform area. The same company, however, may have little or no project and program management and no connection between the IT organization and the company’s strategic objectives, making it a stage 1 (gatekeeper) in IT enablement.
When used in combination, the framework evaluations of perspectives across the five areas can help uncover dependencies between specific perspectives. This enables an organization to quickly identify the root cause of issues identified in business enablement. These dependencies are identified as “causal linkages,” examples of which are shown in Figure 3 (see PDF below).

The framework, shift diagrams and causal linkages serve to highlight where the opportunities for improvement lie and help with the prioritization of initiatives to address. This information is leveraged in the creation of a roadmap to achieve such improvement and drive the organization toward developing a best practice information architecture.

In summary, the best way to start building an information-empowered organization is to conduct a detailed and structured assessment of the current state, then develop a roadmap to achieve the best practice analytic architecture based on the guidelines outlined in this column.

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