Over the years, analytics has evolved from being a limited support function within organizations to a strategic driver of business success. Enterprises have expanded their use of analytics across multiple functional areas and have broadened adoption in order to be more proactive in making data-driven decisions.
Companies are now focusing beyond creation of analytics – they are looking at smarter ways to consume and evangelize analytics.
The Need for an Analytics Roadmap
All organizations in all industries generate data, and the volumes are growing exponentially. Advances in technology and increasing sophistication in business practices have driven companies to a higher degree of adoption of sophisticated analytics, making it a requirement rather than an option. So where does that leave your organization?
Companies have shorter times to react to evolving customer requirements and are faced with continuously changing business environments. The evolution of technology has created several new sources of data and the volume of information generated has exploded in recent years. More unstructured data (such as text, voice and video) is generated that presents both opportunities and challenges for companies. The availability of quality analytics enables as well as spurs companies to react in real time.
In order to chart the most effective analytical roadmap, companies need to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches. With the top-down approach, the leadership of an organization needs to evaluate what the overall goals of the organization are and how the individual functional units align to the goals. The roadmap in this case focuses on getting greater integration among the different business functions and striking the alignment between functional goals and organizational goals. With the bottom-up approach, the enterprise needs to focus on how challenges within individual activities can be addressed by adoption of enhanced tools, techniques or approaches.
For either approach, the organization needs to assemble a task force to create the analytical roadmap through a series of stakeholder interviews and focus groups, followed by collation of results and recommendations.
The key phases are:
Organization Mapping. The objective of this phase is to prepare the organization for the series of interviews and focus groups. In order to do that successfully, the enterprise needs to map its own organization, clearly identifying the functions and subfunctions. For each function, the goals and objectives need to be listed, along with the current activities undertaken by them. The deliverable for the task force at the end of this phase is to have the right questionnaires and schedule in place to conduct the interviews.
Information Mobilization. The objective of this phase is to arrive at an accurate mapping of the current and desired states. During this phase, the stakeholders identified in the previous phase are interviewed to gather all the critical information. This comprises both the top-down and bottom-up approaches discussed earlier.
The key dimensions to be covered in the interviews are:
- What are the current processes adopted for a day-to-day functioning of the business?
- What are the current pain points faced – what are the roadblocks in day-to-day functions, as well as what are impediments to executing on additional strategic initiatives?
- What is the envisioned future state? What is the ideal state, current constraints notwithstanding?
- What are the industry leaders doing?
Figure 2 illustrates a high level map that an organization could converge upon.
Evaluation and Summary. Once the current and desired states have been mapped, the next step is to identify what each business function needs to do in order to get closer to the desired state. Typically the levers available to organizations for bridging this gap are:
- Are the right skill sets and competencies available?
- Are the available skill sets leveraged to the maximum?
- Is the bandwidth of available resources a constraint?
- Is the right methodology being followed for the different activities?
- Is there a learning mechanism to adopt more sophisticated techniques where possible?
- Is the process mature from the perspective of having minimum dependencies on individuals and localized competencies?
- Are the right tools being used for the processes?
- Is technology providing me the right data at the right time and place?
- Is there opportunity to leverage tools and platforms for greater efficiencies?
In order to get maximum value from this phase, organizations need to ensure that the members of the task force have adequate cross-industry expertise. The different functional units are better served with inputs from best practices from different businesses.
Figure 3 illustrates what a set of high level recommendations for such a function may look like.
Recommendations and Next Steps
After individual activities have been identified for each of the functional units, these need to be integrated based a combination of the following three factors:
- Organizational priority – Urgency
- Impact to organization – Importance
- Ease of implementation – Adjacency
The analytics roadmap highlights next steps for the organization as a whole as well as the different functional units. A typical roadmap combines the elements above to lay out a set of high level organizational activities. Figure 4 illustrates one such case.
From the high level objectives, several more detailed activities need to be identified. An example is illustrated in Figure 5.
Roadmap Implementation Challenges
Organizations have to overcome several challenges to successfully implement an analytics roadmap. Identifying the activities and steps as part of the roadmap is the first step – identifying and overcoming the challenges is a key next phase. Typical challenges involved in the implementation of an analytics roadmap include:
Stakeholder buy-in. Given the broad scope of an analytical roadmap, several stakeholders need to buy in for it to be effective. Typically this requires a combination of resources and bandwidth to be invested from several members of senior leadership and middle management. In addition, focusing on several organization-level initiatives may require certain functional initiatives to be temporarily de-prioritized. This can result in some of the stakeholders pushing back on key activities required on their part and, as a result, slowing down the execution process.
Choosing between the important and urgent. It is critical to ensure that organizations can strike the right balance between business impact and immediacy of execution. Inability to optimize between the two can result in inadequate value demonstrated over a period of time, leading to reduced focus on some of the initiatives.
Budgets and investments. Some of the activities outlined in the analytics roadmap require significant upfront investment. Constraints in budget may delay the execution of certain activities in such cases.
It is key to identify and account for the challenges early in the roadmap creation process so that adequate workarounds can be planned. Also, the roadmap should identify key phases and clearly define success criteria for each phase, as well as showcase continued success in order to make the execution plan sustainable.
The Right Organization Structure
In order to successfully execute on an analytics roadmap, the right organization structure needs to be put in place. The enterprise needs to ensure that the organization structure accounts for the following:
- Competencies. The correct mix of skill sets required to execute on the outlined activities. Skill sets could be supplemented through additional staff or training. In several cases external support is required to supplement skills that are non-core to the business function but critical to adopting new processes prescribed by the roadmap.
- Bandwidth. In executing a roadmap, the organization needs to ensure adequate resources are available to ensure it is seamless. Key members of the team have to be made accountable for the success of the initiatives and it is imperative to set them up for success by providing the right kind of resources.
- Growth mindset. Leaders in the organization need to adopt the growth mindset and continuously identify learning objectives to move the agenda forward. This is critical as organizations often tend to get slowed down by legacies and pre-existing expertise, instead of identifying opportunities to improve. The organization as a whole has to adopt the mindset of continuous improvement and wait for something to break.
The Measurement Framework
An extremely important aspect of successfully executing on an analytics roadmap is establishing the framework measurement and feedback loops. The measurement framework needs to be developed along with the roadmap itself. The two key measurements that need to be institutionalized to measure success are business key performance indicators and analytics maturity score.
In order to measure ongoing progress of strategies scoped as part of an analytical roadmap, it is important to track the performance of the business overall. The key metrics that the business monitors for operational planning and daily execution need to be compared pre- and post- the adoption of the roadmap recommendations. Ultimately this enables the business to measure value accrued through the roadmap.
The changes in metrics need to be analyzed to further identify what measures are more effective than the others, and place emphasis on steps that can generate increased value downstream.
Analytical Maturity Score
The organizations that successfully implement analytical roadmaps also ensure that ongoing progress is tracked through an overall analytical maturity score. The score is typically a combination of maturity levels of different functions within the organization and helps set a benchmark for improvement. Ultimately, it is beneficial to reiterate that adoption of analytics is becoming more and more critical to all organizations. The creation of a roadmap and execution are important to be able to adopt analytics and companies that successfully do stand to gain significant benefits.
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