The Harvard Business Review (HBR) wrote about data and information management in their January/February 2013 issue in an article called, “Why IT Fumbles Analytics.” Their insights on how to move past viewing “information as a resource that resides in databases,” to seeing “information as something that people themselves make valuable,” is one that every company should take into account.
While many companies treat a big data or analytics project like a conventional, large IT project, the author contends this approach is the surest way to failure. HBR shares five great strategies for achieving data management success. I will share the first two today and the other three tomorrow.
1. Place people at the heart of the initiative
Don’t create any old information dashboard and assume employees’ thinking will change right along with it. Even with good information at hand, “many people are uncomfortable working with data.” So good data management and associated dashboards should challenge how employees do (or do not) use data. The author describes how one company accomplished this by creating teams that examined each business unit to see how they made decisions and where they were lacking depth.
Based on this, reports were created showing needed information in a very visual way. Afterwards, the upper office worked hard to make it clear to managers they needed to work “in a more evidence-based way” across all levels of the company. This shift in thinking resulted in modifications to the customer database, which improved customer interaction and therefore increased revenue.
2. Emphasize information use as the way to unlock value from IT
IT projects generally abstract data from real-world complexity and create “formal, logical rules for processing data.” This simplifies design and creates clearly defined deliverables. But people don’t make decisions that way!
Most managers have complex roles with little structure. “Even when an organization tries to capture their information needs, it can only take a snapshot.” This snapshot simply doesn’t encompass everything they need to know and does not allow the manager to ask questions both about “specific, bounded decisions” and look “for patterns that suggest new business opportunities or reveal problems.”
In order to foster the ability to answer both kinds of questions, IT has to look at things in new ways. In order to “challenge and improve the way information is used,” companies should:
- Ask second order questions i.e. questions about questions
- Discover what data you do or do not have
- Give IT project teams the freedom to re-frame business problems as needed