Data – smarter spending

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The concepts of data analysis and analytics may be simple…

In practice everyone forgets to mention that an organisation needs to structure itself to enable data to work for them.

Asking for information and expecting a solid and sound piece of analysis without the investment in the correct tools, skills and knowledge will only return a best guess answer. You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who didn’t have the right tools, skills or knowledge would you?

There are a number of key aspects to enabling an organisation to generate the benefits provided by data, but yes there does need to be an infrastructure (people & technology) in place to make it happen. This article focuses on the investment and how it can be realigned to meet the needs of an organisation, or even save a substantial operating cost.

There is lot to understand in keeping your data costs to a minimum, but that’s not what I’ll be focusing on in this article. I want to keep it simple for the executives and management who will be the main benefactors of an information strategy. For this article, it should be understood that storing data costs. The key is to only store data that provides some value to the organisation – i.e. it’s relevant to the core strategy of the business. (Some organisation strategy relies on finding patterns in data – Big Data; this model looks slightly different as you don’t necessarily know what data is relevant). I’ll leave that for another article.  I digress.

While discussing information strategy with executives and those responsible for data strategy, management information (MI), reporting, data analysis, strategy and organisational design I often find organisations largely fall into one or more of the following:-

  • Invested in technology, but it’s not fit for purpose
  • No organisational structure to support the organisations strategy
  • No investment in technology

If your organisation or function fits into any of the above definitions then you’ll find that resources managing and manipulating data in some form in numerous quantities hidden away in each function (yes on top of the IT costs you know you have). Most often function leaders will provision the cost for one or two resources to crunch data in spreadsheets – you don’t think they arrive at the board room having manipulated spreadsheets themselves do you! Consequently they create their own data ecosystem which invalidates the investment in a data warehouse.

So you have sources of data and resources spread around the business to produce information. But the most common dismissal of information by executives is the lack of ‘a single version of the truth’. If we think about those hidden resources it’s hardly surprising there’s no one version of the truth given the manipulation of data is being conducted in support of any given function. Anyone can use Excel to make their data look better than it is.

So given disparate resources, all with different goals, you end up with an expensive way of delivering information that’s not fit for purpose. Just count up your functional units and assume 1 or 2 FTE to each. Then add on top the cost of the technology investment. The realisation of annual budget for something that’s not fit for purpose may help you conclude there’s a better way. And there is.

Focusing on the data and ensuring one version of the truth is often less expensive than supporting the disparate models that have crept in to organisations. While there may be some small investment up front you don’t need to find budget to make your information strategy work – it already exists.

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