It’s a deluge, you’ve been told. It’s a flood of biblical proportions. Data on your customers is more abundant than ever and the internet of things is only going to make it sky rocket. From terabytes to petabytes in 60 seconds!
You’ve probably also read that big data analytics tools and next generation customer information management systems mean that you, the competent but non-expert marketing analyst, can analyze these gigantic and mind-bogglingly complex datasets at the drop of a hat.
But then you look around your own company and see that customer data isn't standardized and has legacy issues, the analytics tools your company employs are beyond your comprehension and your IT department is cautious about allowing you to purchase tools for your own department.
It’s a common set of frustrations and it means that business users in departments like marketing, sales and operations have begun to take things into their own hands and are independently downloading user-friendly, efficient tools that get the job done.
Rules – Not Made to be Broken
Much to the chagrin of the CIO and IT department, business pros increasingly have few qualms about sidestepping the rulebook. A major factor here is that the average executive in marketing or sales is feeling the pressure to become more data and analytics driven in the “Big Data” era. They don’t understand why there needs to be rules when there are so many user-friendly applications available just a two-minute download away.
But, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, rules are there for a reason. The lone wolf scenario is leading to siloed departments measuring and analyzing similar success factors, but doing so with different metrics. This does not lead to any form of best practice or consistent view for C-suite executives to effectively compare performance.
In addition IT has strong grounds to want to maintain control. With everybody in the organization buying and downloading different software packages that don’t scale together, Companies end up with terribly inefficient spending and ineffective infrastructure. And that’s not to mention the network security risks that are inherent in having this army of lone wolves acting with only their own job functions in mind.
Becoming a Gardener, not a Gatekeeper
The relationship between IT and the business user could certainly be more constructive. It can’t continue to be an irresistible force meeting an immoveable object. Both teams need to find common ground that allow the download of user friendly analytics and visualization tools, but at the same time engenders cross-company consistency and effective data management.
To allow things to flourish and flower, the IT department needs to provide freedom, but it also needs to take action – prune in certain areas just as a gardener would. In tandem, we business users must not make that maintenance unmanageable, or we can expect to be shut down. When this can be achieved, organizations can implement true governed data-discovery, which means users have the analytics capabilities that they need, but the overall best interests of that organization are also being served.
I see four major areas of collaboration that will lead to IT retaining the necessary control while also empowering business users:
Create an open dialogue
It is important to ask IT pros what’s on offer and explain your needs. Many of the applications that marketers and other business users are very eager to use are offered in some form by the approved vendors that the IT department has already vetted. This means that solutions can be found that provide desktop self-service data discovery but also work within the existing customer information management framework. It also means that the analysis and functions conducted using desktop tools can be compatible with the data management work conducted by the power users within IT, such as the data scientist.
Find Tools that Enhance Sharing
In a governed data-discovery environment, the analytics output of one department will become much more pertinent and applicable to other departments. This can be extremely powerful if businesses implement tools that allow IT to package up and share the great analytics models and visualizations that are being built.
Access all the data
Due to the sheer magnitude of available data and the efficiencies brought by the cloud, it’s likely that the data you need doesn’t sit neatly on one server. It might be a combination of data saved on your desktop, some saved on the server and a separate data set hosted in the cloud. Only a close collaboration with IT can help the company build a common framework through which to access all pertinent data using standard definitions. Everybody in the company needs to be speaking the same language.
When the average business person recaps their work week, how much of it is spent on the road or sitting in meetings -- removed from the desk and the server that currently house customer analysis tools? It is a fact of life that executives expect the same sophistication and mobility of technology that exists outside of the work context. They are equipped with smart phones and tablets and IT needs to be building apps that allow access to customer information analysis on the move. If internal technologists can offer this mobility, they can also ensure the data security that needs to accompany it. If they don’t, users will find other ways to conduct analysis on their personal devices without some of the security -- at great risk to company and customers.
Marketers like myself and other business users simply want to grab hold of the plethora of user-friendly technologies that exist and bring them to bear on our business challenges. It is critical that we work together with IT and make the effort to understand the enterprise-wide challenges in managing the converging trends of big data and consumerization of IT. If we allow IT to act as gardeners, we’ll find that our own functions flourish in tandem with the overall organization.