Building The Case For Your Data Architecture

Building The Case For Your Data Architecture: The First Project

Data ArchitectureThere’s no area of business or government that isn’t seeking to achieve better results and greater efficiency through the smart, timely analysis of data. That means that every IT department is now— or soon will be—under pressure to deliver data-fueled insights as well as, if not better than, the competition.

In my last blog post, I discussed the six trends for analytics in 2016 as described by Information Management, which included security, the Internet of Things, and staffing challenges around the need for data scientists. In all cases, a robust, versatile, enterprise-wide data architecture is vital to success in this data-driven era.

Ideally, an organization understands the importance of timely, accessible, unsiloed data and invests in a transformative project to modernize its information architecture. We’ve helped companies such as EMC, Grant Thornton and UPMC make that leap with great success. But often, progress is made—and funding is obtained—one data project at a time. In that world, IT leaders need the same full-scale vision they’d bring to a full architectural transformation, to ensure that each new project moves the organization closer to that ideal, modernized state.

With the vision in place, you need to pick the right starting point for your evolution. In this post, I’m going to discuss how you select that first project, and in my next post, I’ll discuss the art of selling that project to business leaders. In both cases, I’m drawing heavily from our new white paper, “How to Get C-Level Buy-In for Your Data Management Architecture.”

The Right Place to Start

Your first project is the first step of your data transformation, so you’re looking for two kinds of success at once. You want to achieve your business objective, of course, and you want to do it in a way that scales to further improvements. You arrive at this best-case first project through discussion with your colleagues in the business. Your best move is to find a way to support a specific, high-value business initiative. That’s where you’ll find the will to make improvements and, most importantly, the funding to tackle a new project.

The project you’re looking for must be:

  • Discrete: The project must be sufficiently small and contained that it can run as a single exercise whose results can clearly be measured.
  • Significant: The project must solve a current business problem and provide bottom-line value that business leaders will recognize.
  • Scalable: You want to grow from this success. You must know how you’ll get this project to the next level after you’ve proven its value.
  • Unsiloed: Your goal is that data moves easily throughout the organization, and IT systems or data formats don’t create roadblocks. That vision starts here.
  • Measurable: You need to be able to measure a result that the business values (increased sales conversions through a specific channel, for instance), and measure how this project’s IT improvements contribute (better customer profiling to tailor offerings).

Metrics are often the biggest challenge. You need to define your metrics, get your business counterparts to agree to them, and then use them to show results. This can involve negotiation, but it is worth the effort.

Getting Ready to Pitch

All this discussion with your business counterparts results in a sketch—a still-informal idea of how a new data project might help the bottom line. You may have handshake buy-in from your LOB, but you don’t have funding yet.

For that, you need to build a solid business case that tells the executives holding the purse strings exactly what this data project will do, how and when it will deliver results, and what it will cost in time, money and manpower. How we document and present that argument is the topic of my next post.

If you want to look ahead, download our ROI-focused white paper, “How to Get C-Level Buy-In for Your Data Management Architecture.” It goes into greater detail about selecting that initial project, as we’ve just discussed, and about selling it to the business.

Our next post, coming soon, will be about getting executive sponsorship.