Today’s tech-savvy organizations are typically proud of their innovation and culture. Most will say they are indeed “data-driven.” However, is it true? In my experience with many silicon entities, not meaning to court tabloid controversy, I would have to answer this question with a “No.” Let me explain by invoking three dimensions of critical investment for an organization that should be considered before a team claims itself to be “data driven:” infrastructure, people, and practice.
What exactly is infrastructure? Is it just a lugubrious conglomeration of high powered servers – custom made and commodity? Is it the agglomeration of high powered visual tools that turn just about any data point into the prettiest picture this side of the Louvre? Or is it a motley collection of data mining, intelligence, and unstructured query tools that each analyst can effortlessly power up from the cool confines of her workspace?
Truth is, infrastructure, particularly in the realm of advanced analytics, is vastly perceived as throwing high fidelity compute clusters on top of the last mentioned set of tools with the unhealthy expectation that somehow there is an insight waiting to be wrangled at the other end. Not reality.
When an investment in infrastructure is made in a manner that comports with the critical business questions to be asked — one that virtually anyone in the organization can and should have the ability to address, then that is a wise infrastructure investment.
In other words, in making analytics as a cultural trait more pervasive, one must not start with a litany of tools and equipment to purchase. It behooves organizations to see infrastructure investments as part of the broader issue of organizational culture.
Investments in technology cannot be made with a motif that says to the user “I am the provider and you are the user” but more from the standpoint of empowering users to create for themselves the ability to generate critical business insights.
Given the proliferation of technologies and the ever-increasing volumes of data of different types, the ability to interrogate the data in various forms is a natural expectation. New forms of interrogation require new skills and facilities with new technology paradigms that are not easy to get. So, as you can tell, the logical progression is for us to hire the “right” people with skills to leverage the new technologies that would, in turn, result in the delivery of critical insights to the business.
Sounds great, right? It’s not.