The data-driven path: Making a reality of Agility

The data-driven path: Making a reality of Agility

In the previous instalment of this blog series, we met Alex, newly appointed BI manager at WIDGE, a manufacturing company which has committed to taking a journey towards ‘Datability’ – that is, a data-driven organisation. Alex has laid the groundwork by creating a solid business case and brought the board of WIDGE Ltd around to a lift-and-shift of its legacy database to Microsoft SQL Server 2017 in the Azure cloud.

This is the way to go for the company’s data management ambitions as it seeks to unleash the latent power of information the business already has, but with which it has done little to date.

Alex and WIDGE are (fictional) devices we’re using to demonstrate the (actual) situation many companies find themselves in. Even as data and the concept of information-driven decision-making enter a new era of maturity and capability, there are plenty of organisations which just, well, don’t use three quarters of their data for anything at all.

At NOW Consulting, we work with a lot of these companies, and routinely see the same issues: restrictive or legacy infrastructure, absence of tools and less than ideal practices in place to manage projects and project teams effectively.

Alex sees this move to the cloud as the opportunity to lay the foundations for future success.  This is important, as Alex knows that for data and analytics to keep getting the WIDGE executive-level support it’s currently receiving, it has to deliver results in the form of insights business users are asking for.

Cloud might save thousands of dollars in infrastructure costs, bring near infinite scalability and lower the barrier to advanced services like machine learning – but developing a data warehouse is still necessary. That can be very slow and could take the wind out of this ‘data investment’ sail.

The rapid way to data warehouse creation

Back in the day, when the term ‘data warehouse’ first arose, making one depended on a small army of programmers and a lot of time and effort. In fact, so unwieldy were these early efforts that by the time the data warehouse was programmed and delivered, the business forgot why it wanted one in the first place. Or priorities had changed so drastically that what the data warehouse could do when it was eventually delivered, was no longer what the business wanted to do.

Alex knows this just isn’t going to cut it. It’s why agility is insisted upon (in fact, Gartner was recommending data agility at least as far back as 2007). More recently, the researcher says a ‘digital future depends on agility’, while noting that ‘cloud is here to stay’.

It may be from 2016, but there’s a  great piece at Digitalist which explains the relationship between agility, growth and the data warehouse. The precis catches Alex’s eye: without agility, your data-driven efforts might just be dead in the water.

The way Alex sees it, there are two problems to solve. Firstly, the cloud migration project needs to succeed while not taking forever to happen; and secondly, once they’re in the cloud, the WIDGE data team needs the agility to respond to business requirements more rapidly than in the past. 

Expert assistance…

Alex has a plan.  The WIDGE data team need the help of someone who’s done these things before.  Someone who’s both moved a platform like theirs into the cloud and knows how to implement agile best practices that deliver the speed Alex craves. 

Alex quickly rules out solving this problem by hiring.  With the focus this project has, sign-off for an extra person or two wouldn’t be impossible. The real difficulty is finding individuals with the right cloud experience who can introduce best practices. Those folk are in demand, expensive and rare. 

Instead, Alex decides to partner with a data and analytics consultancy.  There are many good consultancies out there (and some bad ones he’ll have to avoid) and they can provide both the cloud experience and agile project know how the team needs. 

Alex knows a consultancy can provide scale to the WIDGE team whenever they need it, in a turn on/turn off way that will allow important projects to be delivered more quickly, as and when they decide to turbo charge them with a consultant or two.

After assessing the market and talking to multiple organisations which have successfully used its services, Alex identifies NOW Consulting as the local data experts who can assist in moving into Azure. What his research shows, is that NOW offers a dedicated team of seasoned professionals who know data, who know the cloud and who are dedicated to agile development and the delivery of rapid business results.

Many of New Zealand’s big brands use them and sing their praises, including Xero, Lotto NZ and Lumino The Dentist. This is assuring: WIDGE hasn’t been in the cloud before, and enterprise data is for obvious reasons sensitive stuff. Knowing the company has the backing of a proven operator mitigates risk.

There’s an added bonus. After meeting with NOW Consulting, they have introduced him to the idea of data warehouse automation.  Alex had heard of it before, but it always sounded like just another toolset that promised a lot and delivered very little. Having been given a run through of the WhereScape RED automation tool at a NOW Consulting WhereScape Test Drive, Alex is impressed.  It’s got a cloud-friendly ELT architecture and it’s very fast.  Using WhereScape RED, the NOW team moved the Lumino The Dentists data warehouse into Microsoft Azure in only 30 days.

…and expert tools

Alex therefore insists on WhereScape RED for the creation of structures which prepare data for analysis. This integrated developer environment eliminates practically all the manual tasks (95 percent, that is) associated with the creation of a data warehouse, data lake or data mart. Using repeatability, automated code generation and templates, WhereScape RED therefore greatly reduces the overhead of creating a data warehouse in the cloud and accelerates its delivery.

There’s even more to it. WhereScape RED mitigates risk with its rules-based framework that automates and accelerates the construction of cloud data solutions in the cloud. It provides ‘guide rails’ with best practice agile data warehouse methodologies built-in.

That delivers just the sort of goods Alex is after. In fact, WhereScape RED enables something no data warehouse has ever achieved before: it allows for such rapid development of a data warehouse that it’s feasible to stand them up for the sake of experimentation. Now WIDGE can test hypotheses, respond rapidly to business requests, and demonstrate Datability within days, not weeks, months or years.

Alex smiles. Now that’s agility.

Looking to bring agility to your data-driven initiatives?  Here’s how NOW Consulting can help:

We’re the data and analytics experts (don’t believe me, here are some examples of what we can do).  We know our SQL and we know the cloud.  We can help you turn legacy technology issues into an opportunity to help you drive your business forward, just like we did with Lumino The Dentists. 

 

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