How to Build a Sustainable Data Infrastructure for Better Analytics: A Step-by-Step Guide
Data is an asset. You have to invest in it, maintain it, and put it to work for you. In a post last week, I talked about Informatica’s new eBook that looks at how to make analytics a competitive advantage. Even if you’re funded for one analytics project at a time, and driven to focus just on that project’s individual outcome, it’s possible to have a big-picture view.
Fitting each project into a single infrastructure vision reduces the data silos that will hurt IT’s flexibility and your company’s competitiveness in the marketplace.
Once you understand where you want your infrastructure to go, you’ve still got to make sure each project moves in that direction. To that end, we’ve created “Laying the Foundations for Next-Generation Analytics ,” a highly detailed workbook to let you assess each project, from goals and stakeholders to data sets and tools.
It’s just too easy start at point A and make a straight line to point B—the quick solution to solve the business challenge. This workbook makes it easier to not only deliver better analytics to the business, each time, but to also better shape your overall infrastructure.
Defining Your Project
The 47-page workbook walks you through three critical stages of a project. First is understanding the project at hand—the goals, the stakeholders, and the data. Second, we look at how to leverage best practices in data management. Third, we look at driving toward the right architecture, including an examination of nine common analytics use cases.
For this post, I thought I’d walk through the first phase of understanding the project at hand, which we break into four steps.
- Defining the scope: The starting point is to fill in four blanks that complete three sentences. With that, you define what you want to accomplish, for whom, and why:
We lack insights into ____. So far, we’ve relied on ____ to make decisions about ____. This isn’t sustainable because ____.
What’s key is that the project is framed around business objectives, not technology. Then we get at why it’s currently difficult for IT to serve that objective.
- Defining your stakeholders: Next we look at who’s involved. “Stakeholder” is a fairly abstract term, and it’s important to break it down not only into “who’s involved” but “how they’re involved.” The workbook prompts you to identify:
- Decision makers and budget owners
- Analysts, scientists, and end-users
- Implementers (IT)
You’ve got a whole constellation of roles within your stakeholder community, and it can be a challenge for IT leaders to get a clear picture of what goes on beyond the boundaries of IT. But knowing your stakeholders is critical if you’re going to move from providing technology to providing value. Who is this data for? How will the business use new insights to achieve success? You’ve got to map out these answers before you get into building a solution.
- Defining your timeframe: Business leaders think in terms of the current quarter. IT is used to thinking in multiples of quarters. Technology has gotten a lot faster, but processes and infrastructures haven’t caught up. Yet, if IT can’t deliver at the business’s desired speed, those stakeholders will go outside of IT, stand up their own solution via a cloud vendor, and your overall data infrastructure suffers from the introduction of yet another silo.
Under such pressures, there’s no reason IT cannot provide that cloud solution. Your overall vision should include cloud services and a way to stand up such solutions quickly. You can provide short-term relief without sabotaging your larger, longer-term vision.
- Defining your values: The last step in this initial look at the project is to place what you’re doing on an axis that revolves around the values of the project. Does this initiative have high strategic value, or a lower, more tactical payoff? Is it high-cost or low-cost (with cost being a reasonable proxy for complexity)? It’s important that you, and your stakeholders, understand where you fall on this axis. After all, why pursue something that’s both high-cost and low-value?
With this complete look at the goals, values, and strategic importance of the analytics project, you’re ready to go forward in a way that serves the business both with immediate results and a better long-term information architecture. The rest of the workbook helps you map out that journey.
The Right Approach, Every Time
The promise of next-generation analytics is to leverage data for deeper business success, both for better internal operations and for disruptive new ways to attract, serve, and retain customers. But getting there is about more than a few shiny new tools or slick dashboards. Your enterprise will have to connect traditional BI tools and cutting-edge big data analytics with innovative data management, and that won’t happen by accident. It becomes a reality with each step you take.
The power of this workbook is that it tackles these topics, and more, and becomes a vehicle for making sure that you tackle them, every time, and in a consistent way. Download it today and use it to drive your personal success and success for your organization’s business initiatives: