In my first two posts of this three-part series, (“Is Digital Transformation the path for your company?” and “Leveraging Data Analytics and the Internet of Things in Your Digital Transformation”), I discussed the benefits and challenges experienced in driving digital transformation across the business, as well as the role data analytics must play. This final installment explores the breadth of opportunity that digital transformation enables as it affects organizations and offers recommendations that will give IT the tools to take a data analytics leadership position.
Many believe that focusing on technology first helps guide a data analytics strategy to success. Yet, many times, organizations become frustrated when they hit obstacles like vendor lock-in, inadequate scalability, and a true lack of focus as to how the new strategy can genuinely support the business.
Through years of collaborating with hundreds of organizations, we have come to recognize one thing for certain: without a clear target as to which business outcomes should be addressed by a data analytics program, it’s nearly impossible to make accurate, informed dataset and technology decisions.
A good friend of mine, Mr. Bill Schmarzo, CTO of Dell EMC Services, sums this up nicely: “Organizations don’t need a big data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates big data (analytics).”
In other words, successful digital transformation teams focus first on the business outcomes that they intend to achieve through analytics– those that will generate the greatest advantage for the organization. Data analytics is ultimately about business strategy, and because IT understands the data and the limits of technology, this is a golden opportunity for business and technology to work together to achieve greatness.
In this joint focus between IT and the business, CxOs of companies with successful data analytics programs focus on digital transformation strategy as it relates to organizational culture and structure. Too often, the CIO and IT department focus instead on delivering the technology to enable the business, overlooking issues of a more collaborative business culture that they may feel powerless to affect. This is a central reason why organizations with more advanced data analytics programs pursue the analytics vision from an inclusive business angle– involving CEO, board of directors, digital executives and data science teams.
Operationalize those analytic insights
Once a data analytics program is launched and the organizational structure and culture are in place to support digital transformation, another key aspect to a successful program remains: actually applying the analytic insights to support, drive, expand and protect the business. It’s at this point that the selected business outcomes identified early on become important, because the analytic insights will be used to affect change, whether that is to create more efficient operations or to better engage customers.
However, companies still face the obstacle of how to operationalize these insights back into the business. According to a recent IDC survey, 13.5 percent of companies incorporate advanced algorithms and insights into their apps and process, which means the other 86.5 percent are not making the most of their program and not making their companies more competitive. That’s quite a stunning statistic.
Successful firms that have overcome the key obstacles build the operationalization process into the entire data analytics lifecycle. They focus on building analytic applications to automate the discovery of insights from data and the implementation back into their organization, measure the outcomes, and iterate quickly.
IT as the champion
So, the question is, how can IT leaders help drive digital transformation through data analytics? They can empower the organization by defining the outcomes, determining the type of analytics experience to enable those goals identifying the type of automation that will allow data science teams to act quickly and efficiently.
Here are some specific steps that IT can take to drive success with data analytics:
- Move away from the desire to lead the data analytics programs and let the business side become the outcome visionary
- Work closely with CxOs on application development to create a seamless movement of data and insights from raw data sets, through analysis, to intelligent applications
- Build or buy a data analytics platform that is agile and allows rapid iterations of data analysis
- Support a self-service experience that empowers data science teams to stand up workspaces, pull in data sets, and get to work quickly, within set quotas, without involving IT at every step
- Allow data science teams the freedom to operate within a process and with tools with which they are most comfortable, often an open platform.
Follow those steps and you will position IT as the champion for your digital transformation.
William Geller is Principal Product Marketing for Data Analytics at Dell EMC. You can follow William on Twitter @williamgeller
 “Big Data: Turning Promise Into Reality”, IDC, October 2016