The question we get asked more often than any other when discussing the potential of data is “What have other organisations done in this area?.”, or in another form,”…bring opportunities for business improvement or a business case to us and we will proceed from there”. Hmmm, this suggests a distinct lack of vision or desire by the business, or maybe I am just talking to the wrong audience. So what does this have to do with a discovery platform?
"I believe the pre-occupation with the “silver bullet” business case is the biggest disabler for finding new opportunities."
The biggest challenge in leveraging data today is finding the right people in the business who have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and the ability to articulate the questions they want answers to. Discovering knowledge or insight in data should be a question lead process. The best opportunities come from questions that start with “I suspect that this is occurring but don’t know how to find out…”, or some variation of this. These questions focus attention and give analysis a purpose.
Experience suggests business managers do have lots of questions but either they don’t know how to articulate them in a form that the technologists can respond to or they are reticent to ask because – (pick the top 3):
- It takes too long to get the question answered
- The interaction with IT or analysts is not in English
- Whenever we ask we are told the data is available but not in a form we can use
Many of these reactions are a result of data access and preparation headaches as these cause delays. Often by the time the answer is found the opportunity has passed or the question has changed.
A data discovery platform is about responsiveness. The term ‘fail fast’ applies here. An answer is needed quickly that can be acted upon and the outcome tracked. This is what a discovery platform supports. Data in messy formats from multiple places, questions that need good enough answers quickly (opportunistic) rather than perfect answers continuously (operationalised) and outputs that are easily understood. Discovery recognises that the challenge is often a data manipulation challenge rather than a mathematical or model sophistication challenge. Sophisticated models are difficult for a business to act on but rapid insight into pressing questions can be often be acted on quickly.
The success factors for adopting a discovery platform are about desire (culture) and capability (culture and technology), ranked by importance:
1 A forum or mechanism for encouraging questions, or just persistent management who want answers they can act on – a purpose
1 A culture where testing and challenging are encouraged - agility
1 Tools that can be used by business oriented users – you will never get away from the need to be data competent but this should not mean you have to have a Phd in mathematics
1 A mechanism to act on outputs and capture the results – a desire for improvement
1 Recognition that one management model does not fit all data usage scenarios
A glaring omission you cry is where is the business case? Every list of success factors for data today contains an entry for a business case. By business case I mean the identification of very specific Dollar related results from very specific actions. I agree a business driver is important although I mean the term differently. A business driver is about a business owner seeing value in solving a problem and driving it to that conclusion.
A business case fits in the list above as part of the culture of the organisation. It is embedded in an approach of ‘test and challenge’ which is owned by driven/focussed/hungry stakeholders in the business. Discovery technology will support a business that is looking for ways to improve itself and the value of that will be well understood in the right cultures. The process of discovery will uncover business cases in abundance, and provide support for them but in of itself discovery is not a business case, it is an enabler and a reflection of business culture.
Businesses that are most hungry find ways to respond and get things done will create value from discovery. Business ownership or drive is critical, a business case per se is not.
As an illustration the most difficult business case to build is for a start-up venture where there is no cost to save and only potential markets to chase. Discovery is like a start-up venture, you have to have some faith, belief and commitment.
So my question to everyone out there is tell me why you believe a business case is critical for discovery?
RSVP and Reserve your Spot for the upcoming Data Discovery webinar, December 3, 2013 1pm (AEDT). Listen to key Teradata industry thought leaders including Scott Gnau, President, Teradata Labs and Ross Farrelly, Teradata ANZ, Chief Data Scientist provide insights into Data Discovery and answer your questions around this technology.
Craig Rodger is a senior Pre-sales Consultant with Teradata ANZ focusing on advanced analytics. He has spent 20 years in the IT industry working on how to get value out of systems rather than getting things into them. Having been a member of a number of executive management teams in software, technology and consulting companies and helping build a number of technology business ventures he joined an advanced analytics vendor.