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Struggling to find good data for analytics? Here’s a practical framework for centralising BI and analytics inside the enterprise

(Image credit: Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens)

Data self-service and data democratisation are two of the biggest trends in 2020. Enterprises want to enable their business users outside of IT to use data and insights to inform decision-making and rely less on guesswork. As we’ve heard many times, the amount of data is growing exponentially and so is the number of data silos per organisation. A recent MarketPulse survey by IDG found that only 23 per cent of respondents have completely centralised their BI and analytics teams. These businesses are missing out on finding insights that could solve business challenges inside marketing, finance, sales, and other departments.

Almost nine out of ten organisations with siloed or partially integrated teams plan to centralise the management of BI and analytics. By fully leveraging the cloud, they will be able to simplify and scale data management, and use their increasing data volumes to find actionable insights and better understand their business.

Centralising BI and analytics

Ensuring that data is centralised and accessible in your business is a great first step in becoming a data-driven enterprise. Once you make data available to your employees, it opens up new avenues of opportunities for your business. These include:

- Major improvements for existing processes - Once access to new datasets is shared throughout your organisation, data-inclined employees can use this new information to test and challenge the existing or outdated ways of doing business. This can balance the prioritisation of projects for your company’s needs, help create more efficient day-to-day business operations, or allow you to leverage customer data to create new policy or pricing.

- Application of advanced analytics technology - Using data ingestion tools to load and centralise data, you can perform big data discovery; behavioural analytics; self-service data preparation; graph analytics; or web analytics, based on the needs of your business and advanced use cases like augmented analytics for data preparation, data discovery, and data science.

- Exceptional customer experiences - Sharing dashboards of centralised data with  business users can help improve your organisation’s customer experience. When those insights are made accessible to marketing, customer success, and finance, you can easily detect early warning signs that could impact revenue and determine new ways to help customers and create new products based on customer insights.

First comes data migration

The first step in centralising BI and analytics is moving to the cloud, if you haven’t done so already. One of the biggest reasons for migrating data to cloud platforms is a faster time to value for implementing analytics projects. This is critical because cloud-based BI and analytics could help address more than a dozen business problems.

Cloud data migration is different from on-prem migration, which means enterprises may be using technologies they haven’t used in the past. To set your team up for success, inquire about their comfortability using the tools you’ve selected and ensure they have the level of access needed to do their jobs efficiently. If there are gaps in knowledge, you can look to provide the training to help them get up to speed and make onboarding as painless as possible.

Single source of data truth

Silos hide useful data from analysis. In order to continuously keep data top of mind for business projects, business users need access to that data to make it useful. But because of growing volumes and varieties of data, from different sources spread across the enterprise, a single source of truth is often hard to achieve.

Disparate data silos exist in all businesses, with different data formatted in different ways inside different systems. That’s why enterprises need to maintain a centralised view of all data in one place – inside a cloud data warehouse (CDW) – so you can perform analysis and visualisations using data you trust. By loading data into your chosen CDW, you can streamline the process and allow data professionals to centralise their valuable data, across different sources.

Manage data centralisation with the right tools

To make data available to business users and expand use cases, there are a few criteria to consider when selecting the solutions that are best for your business.

  • Stay modern by working with cloud-native technology to move faster and use software with a simple GUI and drag and drop features for better on boarding
  • Find a platform that supports the adoption and growth of skill sets and new users so you can go from small use cases to complex data transformation and orchestration
  • Get buy-in from both IT and your business users to ensure that the tool you select can support the business logic you have in place
  • Check the security requirements of each tool to understand what protocols your business and the vendor will have in place

Get the entire organisation involved

Data is growing at an unprecedented rate and companies of all sizes must use this data to compete and quickly get value from the insights it provides. While IT has always been the gatekeepers of data, there are other data-savvy business professionals that want to expand their skill set and use data to make decisions in their own roles. The Citizen Data Professional, a data-literate business user that sits outside the IT team, needs to work with tools that can help them perform easy data loading and migration for smaller projects. Together with IT, the Citizen Data Professional can use cloud-native software to work within the parameters of the business and find solutions using data. 

Centralising BI and analytics inside your organisation requires a great framework of technology, collaboration between business users and IT, and the power of cloud computing to help your business move quickly to solve problems. Using the latest cloud technologies and approaches is a key step in democratising data within your organisation. Embrace data-savvy employees by providing them software and solutions that are easy to use, lightweight, and intuitive. Introduce business logic and guardrails so IT can continue to monitor data governance and data quality. These tactics will help your business meet diverse data needs and share much needed insights with both IT and Citizen Data Professionals.

Arawan Gajajiva, Principal Solution Architect, Matillion