I recently had a conversation with a prospective customer that was a Major League Baseball franchise. It is truly amazing to see the transformation that is occurring in front offices of major professional sports organizations. The high degree of competition and high stakes of winning are fueling a movement towards advanced analytics and fact based decision making. Organizations that embrace analytics acquire better talent, perform far better on the field and spend much less than organizations that fail to adapt. With cameras and sensors that capture every detail of a baseball game, there is an enormous amount of data relating to pitch velocity, location and movement. There is data measuring ball exit speed off the bat, distance traveled, defensive range/coverage, etc.
So the burning question in my customer conversation became – “what are the biggest factors that prevent an organization from truly harnessing the tremendous potential hidden within their data?” The IT executive that I spoke with posited that the biggest gap was in the ability to empower the everyday business user for data-driven decision making.
Every day, business users make thousands of decisions – most of these decisions are not made with the benefit of existing data that is readily available in the organization. Traditionally, most businesses rely on strategic analysis to identify how to structure business processes and then monitoring and measuring the ongoing efficiencies of their business processes.
However, with newer sources of data readily available (3rd party data, machine/sensor data, etc.), business users have the potential to add much more value than execution of a pre-defined business process.
In the future, business users will have the means by which they can harness data to identify new opportunities, gain competitive advantage, or contextualize/adapt business processes in real time to optimize outcomes.
Organizations are currently investing in self-service data visualization technology. However, they quickly realize that in order to fully empower everyday business users, they will need to invest in a data platform that can underwrite their decision making requirements. The data platform is distinct from enterprise applications (whose purpose is to automate business processes) and reporting/BI systems. The data platform needed by business users in the future automates several key areas – data search, data provisioning, data preparation, and data collaboration.
When given these capabilities, business users will gain far greater value with their investments in data visualization and advanced analytics. Many customers have mentioned that almost all the effort invested in getting key insights from their data is spent in investigating where the data exists within their company, then gaining permission to have IT access and provision the data on their behalf, then doing hands on data preparation to support the analysis they require.
Instead of phone calls and email requests to find out where the data exists, in the future, they will have the benefits of performing Google-like searches for relevant data sets. Instead of emailing data extract files back and forth with IT, in the future, business users will be able to receive secure, contextualized data delivered directly into their workspace. Instead of spending hours and hours wrangling data in excel in order to prepare it for analysis, business users will be able to benefit from intelligent recommendations that automate the ability to blend, shape or cleanse their data. Instead of making sure they have the most recent data file, in the future, business users will be able to receive a Facebook-like activity stream on data sets they are relying on or could potentially use for analysis.
Just like major league baseball franchises, every business is facing the imperative of leveraging newly available data by empowering their business users with their data. Organizations that fail to do so will be unable to compete in the market. Organizations that are currently in the process of transforming their culture to be more data-centric are currently investing in a comprehensive data platform that empowers their business users. Indeed, business users in the future will come to expect this type of data infrastructure from the organizations where they work.