Four Starting Questions for Supporting Big Data Analytics

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    Big Data: Not Just for Big Business Anymore

    Big Data analytics is still an emerging area for organizations, so it’s not surprising that a lot of ambiguity arises around the best way to support the strategic use of data.

    The discussion about how to drive adoption has mostly focused on the pros and cons of hiring a chief data officer. But after reading a McKinsey Quarterly analysis, it occurs to me that is probably putting the cart before the horse.

    How to Mobilize Your C-Suite for Big Data Analytics,” which was reprinted recently on Information Management, walks us through a number of real-world Big Data analytics deployments. The examples show that how you go about leading Big Data analytics projects is actually more important than who leads them.

    Still. That doesn’t change the fact that someone does have to lead these initiatives, and, as the report notes, that person should not be someone in “middle management.” Big Data analytics will require a hefty investment, and full support from senior executives.

    The article explains how different organizations have approached adopting Big Data analytics. Some failed, some succeeded.

    It turned out that what mattered was not whether you hire a CDO or create a center of excellence or assign the job to an existing leader. What made the difference was organizing in a way that fostered collaboration and buy-in from business leaders and users.

    The report includes four excellent questions to ask as a better starting point when deciding how to structurally support Big Data analytics:

    1. Will a central customer or operational database be used across business units?
    2. Is there a compelling reason to build your own analytics tools and develop internal resources, rather than using a vendor solution? Hint: It depends on how transformative you believe analytics will be to your business.
    3. Can the current functional leader for each business unit manage the change or should the company dedicate new executive capacity specifically for the data-analytics change effort?
    4. If you decide you’d like a more targeted start, ask “Where could data analytics deliver quantum leaps in performance?” to pinpoint where to focus your efforts.

    “Like any new business opportunity, data analytics will under-deliver on its potential without a clear strategy and well-articulated initiatives and benchmarks for success,” the report warns.

    The full piece outlines six “top-team tasks” behind successful data analytics project. It’s a more studied approach, and should be helpful for any effort to shift to a data-driven culture.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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