From Strategic to Tactical

In my previous post, I discussed the various considerations I use when determining where my team or organization is in its analytical journey. If you've conducted this similar thoughtful exercise, you're probably wondering "now what?" While it’s great to know where you stand, you will want to know where you’re going and how to get there! It can be a tough task to not only determine the strategic vision that’s right for you, but to also break it down into tactical action items. Recently, I set out to accomplish such a task. Below are the lessons I learned.

Create a Framework

My goal was to meet with a few data savvy teams within the organization to better understand their data needs, challenges, and future roadmap. Through a series of targeted discussions I was able to better understand their requirements, deliverables, and current processes. I broke down my questions into 4 sections that made up the framework for our discussions:

  • Foundational - First, I wanted to understand the team's mission, who they serve, what their day-to-day looks like, and how data literate they are. 
  • Current State - Diving deeper into their day-to-day, this discussion asked about the data systems and reporting tools used by the team. Details about the team's ability to self-serve and make use of our data assets were also discussed.
  • Future State - In this conversation I asked about the team's roadmap and data strategy. It can be a conceptual discussion at times, but I've found it beneficial to talk about what their ideal data experience might be.
  • Challenges - Typically, throughout the previous 3 sections, challenges will be made clear, but it's helpful to have a dedicated discussion about them.

With the help of a colleague, I compiled a series of questions pertaining to each section. As a data professional, you probably have a set of questions you frequently ask the people you work with. Use your knowledge of your organization and the team to tailor your questions. You can find a variety of helpful questions here and here, though.

Conduct an Assessment

After each meeting I summarized my notes and after all of my questions were answered — after I felt I truly understood the analytical needs of the team in question — I identified where the team landed on the Analytical IQ quadrantI determined how analytically mature each team was by scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 4. This assessment is best conducted through a discussion, either with a partner or the team member you've already been working with. The final assessment should be no surprise. It's simply a way to quantify where a team or organization is in their analytical journey. But this simple step helps direct you to what's next.

It should be noted that if you conduct assessments for individual teams, the goal might not always be to advance the team to one that is at Stage 5 on the analytical competition scale. Some teams are specifically designed to provide operational, tactical reporting.

Make Recommendations

Having completed the assessment, I was able to identify what capabilities the team should consider focusing on next. For example:

  • If the team was consistently using a series of commonly maintained Excel files, the next step for them would be to leverage an enterprise data warehouse.
  • If the team consumes operational reports on a regular basis, it may be time to up their game and create more timely, mission critical reports.
  • If the team has a single power user doing their own analysis independently, it is time for those analyses to be shared across the team.
  • If the team makes use of dashboards frequently, with many members of the team interacting with them on a daily basis, they should consider how they might leverage advanced analytical techniques.

Compile a Report

As a nice, tidy resolution to our meetings, I put all my findings in a document and shared it with the team. It showed the seriousness and commitment I had to the process. It also provided transparency and could be shared with other people who had a vested interest. My hope is that this report is referred back to as the team plans future projects. You can find a template report here.

I've found this process helps teams who find value in data and want to use it more effectively, but are unsure of what to do. Breaking a strategic vision down into tactical steps is not an easy task and requires a lot of discussions and thoughtfulness, but is well worth the effort.

An added benefit of this whole process is that overall trends became clear. Many teams I met with had recommendations related to data consolidation (most likely in a data lake) and continuing education.