Monday, 19 April 2010

The importance of research before bringing data to market

When we talk about 'bringing data to market' we are talking about the process of taking an idea, or a request, and turning it into a stable, trusted source of data that can be utilised by the business community in order to aid decisions, and support the strategic goals of the business.

If 'bringing data to market' was treated in a similar way to how you would bring a product to market, we would see data created that has been:
  • clearly defined and aligned to strategic goals
  • fully tested and quality assured
  • documented ready for use
Lets think for a minute about one of the most important steps undertaken prior to launching a new product. Research. In product terms, once an idea has been generated the product team would undertake detailed research. This research will provide good knowledge and enable a strong vision of how to take the product forward towards a successful launch.

It starts with an idea, or a request for data.

A member of the business community may request that "We need data on X in a format such as an OLAP cube, so that we can slice/dice the data".

The idea, or request for data is then benchmarked against a number of research tasks.

1. Why do the business need X?
  • What is driving the business requirement for the data?
  • How does this align to the wider business strategy?
  • Do they already have X but are unaware that it exists?
2. Who will use X?
  • Will X only be used by the requester?
  • Does X have the potential to be utilised across other business areas?
  • Do the potential users of X have the correct systems access/skillset to utilise the data?
3. Does similar data already exist?
  • Will Y meet the needs of the requester of X?
  • Why was Y not previously considered by the requester?
  • Do they actually want Y, but in a slightly different format?
This research will ensure that good knowledge exists of the requirement, and how it fits into the strategic goals and direction of the business. It will also help us to understand the potential user base of the data, and whether they have the required skills to utilise the data, or whether further user training will be required.

Finally, it will also aid to reduce a problem that occurs in many organisations. Business users are continually requesting data from BI, and in many cases the data actually already exists and is utilised by other parts of the business, but for whatever reason (poor communication? poor 'data launch'?) the requester was not aware of the existing data. In less governed and communicative organisations this can result in multiple data sources that essentially provide the same data. There is a risk that these data sources may not be used in the same way, or even reconcile with each other due to potential criteria imposed during their creation.

Do your research

Detailed research and knowledge, combined with a strong strategic vision will ensure that all data that you 'bring to market' will be a valuable enterprise asset. It will help prioritise business requests, and place context onto data in terms of which strategic goals the data is supporting. In an age where we often hear the words "information overload" it is crucially important that we don't lose sight of the bigger picture, or the business goals, that we are supporting through data.


Jim Harris said...

Excellent post Phil,

A significant (and commonly overlooked) aspect of the information overload undermining optimal business decisions at many organizations is the redundant delivery of the same or similar data due to a lack of research performed.

Identifying the business needs, all applicable users, and related already existing sources, will definitely help ensure that all data that you "bring to market" will be a valuable enterprise asset.



Phil Wright said...

Thanks Jim - you're right, it is commonly overlooked. My hope is that as more and more organisations start to realise the potential of their data, they will cultivate it in a much more caring fashion, and then govern it appropriately - reducing this redundant/duplicate delivery.

Rodwell said...

I certainly concur...this is a common fundamental problem, yet not only overlooked but unknown, especially in our developing nations here. Organizations often request data but there is no foresight on the need to govern that data: the attitude is, "as long as we got the data and used it for what we wanted AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT". I have never seen such high levels of data redundancy/duplication as here! There is lack of awareness/interest & therefore support on data governance issues/projects even from the top executives themselves.


Phil Wright said...

Thanks for your comment Rodwell - I think that the time will certainly come when these issues gain the awareness/support required in order to govern them. I've seen organisations where their data infrastructure is on it's knees due to sheer volumes of data - how much of that is truly needed/non-duplicated/redundant? No one actually knows!

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