We've partnered with Chicago-based data and analytics consultancy firm, Aptitive, to drive innovation in the cloud for our customers; the first order of business was to chat with their CTO, Fred Bliss, regarding data-driven enterprises. Fred's experience with enterprise organizations to develop custom applications, data pipelines, and analytical data platforms makes him an expert when it comes to best practices for organizations that want to become data-driven. In preparation for our upcoming webinar with Aptitive on February 17, we had a few questions for Fred; his answers are certainly worth sharing.
As you have done a number of analytics and data-driven projects for many businesses, what is a common theme you see within the projects and what does "data-driven" mean to you?
"Data-driven" is both a buzzword and a reality. When you hear that someone wants to become data-driven, you have to look past the technology angle and into the people and process side of the business. An organization could build the greatest, most innovative analytics technology in the world, but if it's driven entirely by IT in a "build it and they will come" approach, it will likely fail due to poor adoption. When I see data-driven done right, it's creating a vision and plan collaboratively with both business and IT leaders, getting a business executive to sponsor and spearhead the effort, and adopting the platform in their day-to-day operations. When a customer of ours started driving every executive meeting using dashboards and data to make decisions, instead of "gut feels", we knew a change had happened in the organization at the top, and it paved the way for the rest of the organization to quickly follow suit.
What are one or two critical aspects of these engagements or projects that make them successful for a business?
1. Sponsorship from a key business leader.
2. Connecting technology and development efforts directly to a business case that carries a big ROI.
The days of spending a year (or more) building the "everything"' enterprise data warehouse are over - start small, and start with providing real insights that drive action. Dashboards that provide "that's interesting" metrics are interesting - but so what? We need to use data that goes beyond telling us what happened, and instead points business leaders to where they need to focus their initiatives to take appropriate action.
On the flip side, what do you see during a project that makes you think “this isn’t going to work”?
100% IT-driven projects. As much as I love building a beautiful back-end architecture, if it's not solving the pain of a business or delivering a new opportunity that they never had before, it's not going to compel anyone to do anything differently. While some IT-driven projects make sense (for cost reduction, whether in technology cost or the opportunity cost of maintaining a complex system), the real adoption comes when the business is able to do things more quickly than they could before.
In your experience, if the project put data security first when designing and building the output, what does that alleviate in the short and long term?
It significantly removes the future risk of managing security in an analytics environment. While basic security is a no-brainer (SSO, authentication, row-level security, etc), when you have a complex organization, effectively designing a security model that can scale takes time, thought, and long-term planning. An organization's data is their most valuable asset. A security-first approach ensures that as the company grows and scales its data initiatives, they can also allow security to scale with it, rather than hold it back from opportunities.
A massive thank you to Fred from the whole ALTR team for taking the time to share some of your knowledge with us and our readers. For more insights from Fred as well as our own CTO, James Beecham, tune in to our webinar on February 17th: The Hidden ROI - Taking a Security-First Approach with Cloud Data Platforms.