Leveraging data and analytics to fuel Northern Ireland’s digital economy
Bob McClean examines how to truly drive insight from data right across an organisation
Data is the fuel to any digital economy: you’ll have heard plenty of times before how the insights you can glean from it will unlock better products and services, improved customer experiences, greater agility, and lower risk.
Like other regions, Northern Ireland has high volumes of data stretching across many systems and organisations, both private and public. And while most organisations in the region have some sort of analytics or business intelligence (BI) capability, few truly have the ability to use data to its fullest across the whole business.
There are many reasons why this is the case. Sometimes, the work required to turn an organisation into an insights-driven business is perceived as too complex, expensive or there may even be a lack of in-house skills. Elsewhere, there may not be significant realisation of what the competitive or efficiency advantages could be, meaning projects don’t get the buy-in or investment they need.
The truth is that turning your organisation into an insights-driven business can be genuinely transformational, enabling you to innovate fast, differentiate effectively and ultimately radically improve service provision. Not only will you achieve better business outcomes, but your customers will benefit from superior service delivery. In our recent survey, 48% of UK citizens agreed that better data sharing will lead to better services.
The good news is that the changes you’ll need to make don’t belong in the ‘too difficult’ pile: done in the right way, you can start seeing results within months.
What do we mean by an ‘insights-driven organisation’?
A truly insights-driven business is one that uses its data to underpin decision-making at every level, right across the organisation.
Raw data is transformed into insights, which are embedded into the business’s processes and surfaced in the right way at the right time. This means they become integral to decision-making – both operational and strategic. And it’s a virtuous circle, because data on the decisions and their outcomes is captured and fed back, to help refine products, services and processes.
So how do you actually get there?
The six building blocks required to become an insights-driven organisation
1. Strategy and roadmap
For analytics and insights to be effective, they’ll touch every aspect of the business.
Your strategy should define where you want to get to in terms of your data, analytics and insights. It recognises you won’t reach utopia overnight; delivering this level of change will take time and will ideally be carried out in phases. It also needs to be accompanied by a roadmap that sets out the journey, covering all of these building blocks.
2. High-quality data
Inaccurate or incomplete insights are at best a nuisance and at worst detrimental. This is why you need an up-to-date ‘single view’ of your critical data, such as core customer, citizen or patient details.
The next step is to build a ‘360-degree view’ of each individual. This adds context to the single view data by bringing together all interactions between that person and your organisation. The 360-degree view helps you understand the value of an individual to your organisation and can identify relationships you might not otherwise have been aware of.
To manage all this data, you need appropriate technology. This is likely to include a master data management package to create the single view, software to combine data into a 360-degree view, and tools that surface the right insights in the right way at the right time.
This ecosystem of technology, which you can build incrementally, will help detect changes in data, respond instantly and report as and when required, all with little human intervention.
4. People and skills
To drive through this type of transformation, it’s essential it’s led by someone at the highest level in the business. This could be a Chief Analytics Officer, or the Chief Finance Officer. Remember that successful analytics programmes are business-driven, not IT-driven, so while the CIO will play an important role in delivering the technology side of things, the overall transformation needs to be led from the business side.
5. Organisational change
Closely linked to people and skills is the need for the right organisational structure and culture. How is your business organised now, and how will this need to evolve as you move towards your vision of being truly insights-driven? A change in attitude and culture is vital if you are to break away from a siloed departmental approach.
Finally, you need appropriate processes to govern how data is used. With 68% of Northern Irish citizens surveyed citing that privacy was their main concerns over organisations using and sharing their personal data, you must ensure you’re consistent and compliant with all necessary regulations.
Taking your next steps
While this may sound like a lot of work, the key is to start small with things that will deliver noticeable improvements in your organisation, while keeping in mind the bigger picture you’re aiming to create. Once you deliver early projects and demonstrate the benefits, securing buy-in and budget for later steps will become progressively easier. In this way, you can set your organisation on the path to being truly insights-driven, and the many business benefits this will unleash.
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