Companies of all sizes and across all industries are turning their attention to modernizing their data and analytics infrastructure to something more scalable, agile, and future-ready. But challenges such as cost and not knowing where to start cause many to delay modernization efforts. This blog provides a structured approach to achieve modernization so you can turn your data into your company’s strongest asset.

Overcome Challenges to Data and Analytics Modernization

The need for data and analytics modernization is undeniable: the use of tools like Microsoft Excel for mission-critical data analysis and sharing creates data quality issues; old school BI tools can’t take advantage of cloud resources and don’t offer native data science functionality; data stored in data centers creates a huge security burden; and central IT delivery models create bottlenecks as the need for data across the organization increases.

Most companies realize that these legacy data and analytics systems—and organizational processes attached to them—are impeding them from taking advantage of the possibilities created by today’s proliferation of data.

Yet, even data-minded leaders delay modernization projects for many reasons. Some believe the costs will be prohibitive or they don’t have the right skills in-house. Some simply don’t know how to start such a transformative effort given how entrenched their legacy systems and processes are in daily operations.

There is a lot to consider, but you can find success through an organized approach and a thorough modernization strategy, complete with a roadmap.

A McKinsey survey shows that the creation of a data strategy is the leading reason for (and challenge to) companies’ success with data and analytics.

How to Build Your Data and Analytics Modernization Roadmap

Your data and analytics modernization initiative should be viewed as a high-stakes project driven by a long-term strategy. This strategy becomes actionable through a roadmap.

Determine Scope (hint: include all departments)

To make data and analytics central to business decisions, your solutions must help everyone answer critical questions and do their jobs better. You will experience the most benefits by including the whole organization in your modernization effort. When you exclude functions or departments, your solution won’t address their issues and pain points which means you risk low adoption and not achieving the fundamental benefits of modernization, such as business agility and game-changing insights.

Obviously, it is important to prevent business disruptions as much as possible during the modernization project. Take a phased iterative approach to prioritize which departments to focus on first and apply lessons learned to subsequent phases/departments.

Modern data and analytics solutions are designed to put the users first—let the whole company benefit from this with an organization-wide modernization effort.

Establish Key Players and Advocates

Leadership and support staff who view and use data as an asset are vital to the success of your modernization initiative. These key players help establish a culture that puts data and analytics at the heart of your business decisions—ensuring buy-in of the initiative and pushing adoption of new solutions.

Identify leaders and other key players to communicate a clear message about the purpose and benefits of modernizing your data and analytics. Generate excitement by explaining how modernization makes the business more agile and competitive in the market. Set clear expectations for everyone involved and reassure participants their input will be valued.

These are the types of individuals you want on your core project team:

  • An executive sponsor with the authority to define what’s important for the organization.
  • A project sponsor who will be in charge of moving the project forward.
  • Those with organizational clout, even if not tied to their title. They are the ones who others listen and respond to.
  • Your data innovators who have a track record of making decisions supported by data.

Gather Feedback

Interview your users—both business and IT—to start formulating your modernization solutions.

Questions for participants should focus around:

  • Business goals and objectives;
  • KPIs and reporting requirements;
  • Pain points and limitations for business users, such as no insight into other departments or poor data quality;
  • Pain and limitations for IT, such as missed SLAs for executive reports and night/weekend work to maintain on-premise servers and applications;
  • Common problems that IT fields from the business users;
  • What they would like to be able to do with their data; and
  • What data sources and systems they use.

To get the most from your time with stakeholders, send the interview questions ahead of time, and during the interview focus on probing and listening to understand.

Craft Your Modernization Strategy

After gathering insights from your stakeholders, it’s time to design a modern data and analytics strategy that encompasses technology, people, processes, and data.

These are some of the technical specifications that should be included in your solution:

  • A complete data architecture model that includes how data will flow from source systems, be transformed into an analytical model, and presented for business partners.
  • All data sources needed to answer business questions.
  • How security will be implemented across components of the architecture.
  • The modern tools that will enable you to do more with data and analytics.

Technology is not the only the aspect of modern data and analytics. Address these people and process oriented aspects of your modernization in your roadmap:

  • Skillsets and training needed to promote widespread adoption;
  • Organizational structure to establish responsibilities and how data and analytics capabilities will be distributed throughout the organization; and
  • The data governance strategy to get everyone on the same page about who can take what actions with data and when.

Document the Path from the Current to the Future

Outline how you plan to close the gap between your current state and your future, modern environment. We recommend creating three key documents, including:

Summary of the current state: This includes highlights from the business and IT stakeholder interviews; current toolsets, architectures, and data and analytics capabilities; and problems the business users are facing. Gathering the current state may uncover lots of issues, but this document communicates the case for change, justifies the investment in modernization, and provides a baseline from which to measure future progress.

Recommendations document: This summarizes each recommendation across all the major categories—people, process, technology and data—and provides the respective rationale. This document should prioritize each recommendation (we recommend using the prioritization matrix). Lay out the architecture in a diagram to demonstrate which systems are communicating with each other. Representing the architecture phase by phase is an effective way to communicate the evolution of the modern solution.

The picture of what the modern architecture will look like within the organization should be made clear through this summary of recommendations.

Roadmap: This is where the plan comes together. In the roadmap, projects are charted on a schedule to communicate the chronological order of execution. The roadmap clearly shows interdependencies between projects, the duration of each iteration, and the timing for the final delivery. The transition to a modern analytics environment may be gradual, but the benefits will increase throughout the process. Identifying quick wins within the timeline, such as providing a software license to an individual or a team, are helpful to build momentum.

Get Buy-in: How to Present Your Modernization Recommendations

Communicating the recommendations and roadmap is your opportunity to sell the end-state modern approach and how it will benefit the organization.

The key to a successful presentation is understanding the audience. Executives will want to know how the data modernization strategy aligns with the business strategy and the expected ROI. They may ask questions around additional risks the modern approach introduces. Business sponsors will want to know how this will help them achieve departmental objectives and how much of their team’s time will be impacted. The IT contingent will likely focus on the technical components and how their skills and knowledge will translate. Questions may arise around impacts to the network and security.

Remember your purpose for data and analytics modernization—to harness possibilities created by today’s proliferation of data—and be prepared to demonstrate specific values to each audience.

Modernization Happens with a Solid Strategy

The longer companies wait to modernize their data and analytics, the greater the gap becomes between them and industry leaders. A strategy is key to kicking off the project and making modernization a reality.

Dave Williams Dave is our Vice President of Data Strategy. He has a passion for questioning the status quo, helping our clients make smart decisions, and building business-focused solutions. He is the father of 3 young adults and enjoys exploring the mountains near his new hometown outside Salt Lake City.
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