Couple of yearâs back I was invited to a boxing match between two world-class boxers. The match was not that important that day, but a conversation that followed with one of the coach was important. It was the importance of footwork and the emphases on game as a big rumble of strategy, tactical execution and attained skill-set. The coach explained it as a set of rules that the boxers have to keep in mind to keep his thinking straight. The more you protect the rules, the more the rule protects you. It was a mesmerizing experience and stuck with me since. I have ushered the experience to few executives and had as much fun explaining it as I had experiencing it.
Today’s leaders, in the world of big data analytics, need to act much like those boxers. While leaders are taking head-on with one of the world top business challenges, leaders need to stick to certain strategic principals that will prepare them to be agile and take any challenge head-on and come out winner. I have tried capturing 10 most used lessons that I have heard and pitched through my conversation with various leaderships. Think of it as 10 commandments that I hold dear:
1. Thou shalt not do it alone:
However strange it may sound but it is real. Leaders need to understand that it takes a village to install the right data analytics strategies in place. Leaders should consider it to be a team effort and not work in any isolation. Some of the best implementation of data analytics strategies has used a council model to put together a right team of leaders to identify and deploy best data analytics strategies to help business reap benefits of being data driven.
2. Thou shalt walk the walk
Yes, understanding the journey from bits to insight is important. A supporter should be the biggest implementer of the strategy as well. It is important for the leadership to not just define strategies but also see them in action. Understanding how data analytics works and how an insight is generated from raw data, how teams are embracing analytics will help leadership in extrapolating some of the “not very evident” use cases that will help create a win-win strategy.
3. Thou shalt embrace analytics from the top
Yes, this is not a very hard thing to explain someone but surprisingly we do hear horror stories of this stage completely being ignored. While we see many preachers on the top level management, but most of senior leadership still primarily bank of gut based decision making which is as Ludacris as it is scary. Leadership should embrace sophisticated capabilities to help them become data driven and not gut based political tainted decision makers. It is important that top leadership should be open towards strategies embracing data driven to their decision process.
4. Thou shalt not ignore the culture
I often find myself joking around that its not big data that is the problem but big culture. Which is to much degree a true and consistent statement. There are very few companies, which has really nailed down the cultural adoption aspect for being data driven. Creating a culture of embracing data analytics in businesses will remove any gut based and politically motivated decisions and replaced it with data driven approaches. This is by far the most challenging stage. It requires slow changes to promote and appreciate data driven decisions to help teams adopts such practices within their circles. If done right, this opportunity has the best shot at inducing change.
5. Thou shalt translate bits to analytics
Understanding data is not a business friendly act. Which is why most of the business shies away from being data driven. Great business builds right translators to help businesses understand value of analytics by translating it to insights that businesses could value. If done right, this rule will make selling a data driven strategy to leadership a cakewalk. Business leadership would easily understand how analytics is generating insights and thereby appreciate it more.
6. Thou shalt deal from the problem first
Another great rule for generating quick wins to justify any investment in data driven strategy. It is important for business to see the value first before embracing data analytics practices. Starting with problem first will shorten the value generation cycle and create opportunities for achieving some quick wins. Therefore, it would be a good idea to start with a business problems first as many times as possible and eventually a good strategy will help proactively identify problem worth looking as well.
7. Thou shalt grow the analytics club
As with creating a culture, there should be a need for creating a wide and deep council / clubs where people could share their best practices, learn the latest/greatest and exchange opportunities. These innovation hubs will expedite the cultural adoption and help the spread of best practices. If done right, this rule will expedite the creation of center of excellence within businesses without spending too much time and resources. This is the most organic and viral way to grow data driven culture within company.
8. Thou shalt build a center of excellence
Yes, this rule surely needs its own space in this discussion. Having a center of excellence is the key to having a data driven business. While a good strategy many times accidently give rise to some flavor of a center of excellence, a good rule of thumb requires a dedicated effort toward creating a center of excellence. A well-designed center of excellence will help achieve a faster data driven decision cycles and rapid identification of business opportunities. A well-designed center of excellence will pay for itself rather quickly than anyone anticipates.
9. Thou shalt not ignore strategy
While this and many other related article points towards the importance of data analytics driven process to help run a business but that does not trump the importance of a good strategy. As Henry Ford rightly pointed out: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, this is true for data driven learning as well. Still a good rounded strategy when combined with a good data analytics process forms the best way to go data driven.
10. Thou shalt not run it as a spring but a marathon
And lastly, it is important to understand that a good execution is a constant and consistent set of operations. Surely, there are lots of successes along the way but still it should be treated as a long and consistent journey towards creating a data driven organization. While this is the most understood rule, this is the most ignored rule as well. We all are bounded by our urge to deliver fast results that we many time forget the bigger picture that we are suppose to achieve and understanding this rule will help us stay focused towards long term vision.
So, while the road being data driven is painful and long, but keeping a grip on these 10 rules will help leaders win their fight and at the least put-up a fight worth tuning in for.