Monday, 2nd August 2021

Weathering the data storm

The key barriers to an effective data and analytics strategy. By James Don-Carolis, Managing Director, TrueCue.

While many industries are focusing on re-opening plans at this critical time of recovery, the past four months are still having a detrimental effect on almost every sector, impacting organisations of all sizes. That being said, ironically, the disruption we have all experienced has also become a defining catalyst for positive change.

In response to evolving government legislation and lockdown rules, businesses and public bodies have had to quickly adapt and re-evaluate their standard operational strategies as a priority. According to recent research from Forrester, prior to COVID-19, less than a third of IT processes had been digitised. In a bid to survive the disruption, business leaders are now supercharging their digital transformation strategies, hoping for a return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. Although the unprecedented period of uncertainty has made it problematic for businesses to plan ahead, those making insight-driven decisions are far more likely to survive than those making gut-driven decisions. Having a true understanding of business data is essential for any business leader to make accurate forecasts and prepare effectively for an uncertain future. Subsequently, a data-driven approach to business has been brought to the fore. As stated in Gartner’s Build a Data-Driven Enterprise, by 2023, data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value, supported by its inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs.

We recently conducted a survey of 100 data and IT professionals which revealed more than a quarter (27%) of organisations are still reliant on ad-hoc analytics, with over a fifth (21%) reliant on their internal IT teams to drive forward their data and analytics strategy. As only 13% reported having a centralised analytics team in place, it is evident that a large number of organisations did not have a dedicated data and analytics strategy in place prior to COVID-19.

There are a number of fundamental challenges businesses must address if they are to become more data driven. From having the right technologies in place and cultivating a culture of data and analytics that is central to the business strategy, to adopting a business-led approach rather than IT-led approach.

The data function must be business-led, but it is often IT-led

Although the IT department may have an understanding of what makes a strong data strategy, it may not necessarily be aware of what the business needs to be able to understand from analysing its data. In a recent survey from PWC, it reveals that highly data-driven organisations are three times more likely to report improvements in decision making. Therefore, adopting the data function as a business-led approach will ensure organisations have access to more reliable and valuable information which can be used to support a successful digital transformation.

Accessing data from disparate sources instantly

Due to recent uncertainty, daily or even hourly reports and insights are more readily required by business leaders if they are to keep on top of ongoing disruption and make critical business decisions accordingly. Relying on Excel spreadsheets and not having a dedicated data warehouse or a trained analytics team in place can make it very difficult to easily consolidate, validate and structure disparate data sources for analytics consumption so that critical business decisions can be made quickly. This challenge is highlighted more so by key-employee dependencies and a lack of backup capability should certain individuals not be available to perform these critical tasks.

The last few months have demonstrated that analytics maturity can be vital to gaining easy access to critical datasets, while removing any staff dependencies that can be exacerbated with existing remote working practices. Having a clear data strategy in place can help businesses overcome new challenges, especially those related to COVID-19. According to a recent survey of 300 analytics professionals, nearly half of the respondents stated that analytics is ‘front and centre’ in helping inform them on major decisions in response to this critical period of recovery.

Creating and implementing a data strategy that includes designing and building agile, affordable, non-technical data management and business intelligence infrastructure is now easier to achieve. SaaS offerings that bring simplicity to cloud data warehousing provide businesses with instant access to the analytics they need to understand their business and make strategic decisions quickly.

A data and analytics strategy without a data-driven culture

In some cases, businesses have data and analytics strategies in place, but a data and analytics culture is not central to the business strategy. As a result, not all employees have a full understanding of the data technologies and analytics capabilities across the business. In fact, a recent report by Deloitte revealed that the minority (37%) of organisations who had embedded a strong data driven culture were actually twice as likely to exceed their business goals than the majority (63%) who did not have such a strong analytics culture.

Although the main analytics function and strategy should always be the responsibility of qualified professionals, each member of staff should be upskilled, so they have an awareness of the existing data technologies and analytics capabilities across the business. By doing so business leaders can ensure data and analytics isn’t simply a by-product of individual Charlotteprocesses, but an essential component, not only for their role but the how it benefits the entire organisation.

Weathering the storm and being prepared for this critical period of recovery

To survive and thrive in the current climate, business leaders must have instant access to all data on historic performance so they are able to consider an array of possibilities and better predict the position they will be in, in months to come. This should in turn also speed up the process of returning to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible.

A data-driven culture and a data and analytics function run by the business is important, but the fundamental element businesses must look to address – particularly with employees working remotely – is having suitable infrastructure in place. It is important for business leaders to note that a good solution is more than just technology, it is about having access to genuine insight that will allow focus on making the best decisions based on trusted data

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