Its been a long but fun week. It ended on both a low and high note.
I was talking to a client and helping with a review of what they called their, “information strategy”. In the parlance of today, we now call this a “data and analytics” strategy since we believe that all uses of data (of which analytics is only one) and all analytics combine to support the reimaging of decision making in an organization – at all levels. Thus a data and analytics strategy is business driven can be thought of as independent of technology strategy. I say that since so many IT shops have IT strategies that are mostly technology strategies, and they don’t seem to include anything much concerning data or analytics. Sure, BI/Analytics is the top technology spend priority for CIO’s (see figure 10 in 2016 CIO Agenda: A US Respective), but that just proves the point.
We looked at the “information strategy”. It looked more like an infrastructure technology program (decisions about what was needed were mostly made, just as with the CIO survey above) with a slight nod to some vague idea about outcomes, understood and in terms of the IT department, not the business user. So this was not a data and analytics strategy after all. I inquired if the company had a Chief Data Officer. No, they did not have one. But apparently they had a Chief Digital Officer.
“Oh,” I said, “Does that mean your company has a digital strategy?”
“Yes,” came the replay. But then I was stopped dead in my tracks: “But our data strategy does not talk about information.”
We had to stop and talk about this a little. To be fair, the digital strategy did describe aspirations for how customers should be able to interact and transact with the company almost anywhere, anyhow, anytime. However, there was no reference to data, or analytics, or any other aspect of the business. I concluded that the digital strategy was more a statement of aspirations; it was not a strategy at all. More importantly the digital strategy HAS to include the data and analytics strategy. They are not each a separate dialog or effort.
Here are two notes that really nail the digital strategy solution (the first note) and the role of data and analytics platform (in the second):
- Building a Digital Business Technology Platform
- Mastering Data and Analytics: ‘Table Stakes’ for Digital Business
But then I had to think – and was pushed to do so by a colleague (Michael Moran). I was reminded of some of the other trends going on “out there” where data is being shortchanged, massively. Here are a few:
- Internet of Things – IoT –vendors today is mostly concerned with network integrity and hardly anyone in the IOT space is even worried about data consistency In the network, let alone the definition of the devices interacting on the network. What will happen when all those nice new technically interoperable services start to exchange data? Oops.
- Microservices (and miniservices) are being touted today as a silver bullet and dream for agile and fast development. What more does a developer want than to be freed up of dependencies on others and given the green light to go off and develop solutions to problems at their own rate? It sounds like heaven. Well, that is until you work out that several solutions seek the use (even update) of the same common data (think customer) and presto, you get into data quality and consistency problems. I liken microservices colloquially as SOA run Amok (in deference to that Star Trek episode, Amok Time). Oops.
- Cloud is a wonderful platform for accessing and consuming standardized services. Yet increasingly the number of calls we are taking related to clients that are struggling to use integrated business applications from different cloud providers, while at the same time trying to integrate them with any legacy on-premise apps, is rising fast. Its not that cloud app to cloud app cannot be integrated. Of course they can. But integrating technology is not the point; governing consistently semantic data across them is. And that is not part of the cloud vendors’ offering. Oops.
- Excitement about the “API economy” is rife, as if microservices was not enough. Don’t get me started on this one. API governance does not imply or include “information governance”. This is the same challenge as with microservices. Data, data, everywhere and not a mention or a care for semantics.
- Postmodern ERP (I include most business applications): Since a postmodern app strategy implies a hybrid model of apps on premises, apps in the cloud, and outsourcing, I have to say: have you read any of the above? Semantic consistency of the data in a postmodern ERP or app strategy is all over the map. Oops.
Finally, Michael to whom I was talking to brought the whole thing home to me when he said, “In digital business, you eventually will focus on a digital twin, and as such, all you are talking about is data!” Very cool and very oops.
So it was a good week. But I feel that we have some pretty big mountains to climb and I am still not convinced that we are all headed in the right direction. I think its time to go home for the weekend. Hope you have a good weekend too!