To start us off, here are two things you already know:
- The customer is king
- The cloud is the future
In enterprise insight, we see each of these principles play out along loosely coupled but independent trajectories. Customer centricity plays out through the movement towards greater end-user empowerment; the cloud future through the (accelerating) adoption of cloud-based technologies.
We use these two market trends to map out the terrain of business decision platforms in a simple quadrant analysis, and it usually looks a bit like this:
Our cast list is as follows:
- Estate managers built extensive on-premise data landscapes, tightly controlled and (hopefully) well-documented. These are supertankers – hugely powerful, very robust, and not at all nimble – they plan course deviations miles in advance and everyone on board is largely a passenger. The urge to centralise control became self-defeating; out there in the business, desperate would-be customers took the law into their own hands.
- Trouble-shooters responded to the cries of the starving business users and created wondrous and involved ad-hoc solutions, using all the data, wherever it was, often without having the means or the motive to validate it. To begin with these vigilantes spoke VBA and marshalled macros – more recently the BI revolution has given power to an ever-growing posse, who now wield Tableau workbooks.
- Cloud converts are meanwhile working to move as much as possible of the enterprise data footprint onto cloud services (and often for good reason). Some of these practitioners are themselves ex-supertanker captains and have responded to the winds of change by embracing “lift and shift”, to re-build the old on-premise estate (although this doesn’t make great sense).
- Quick winners are then able to seize the officially sanctioned “cloud” resources to power a new generation of point solutions, inspired by the VBA vigilantes but equipped instead with the latest offerings from Cloud BI. To date, these offerings have struggled to match the flexibility (and efficacy) of the old ad-hoc products (although that is starting to change).
The above probably sounds a least slightly familiar – and this cast list gives rise to a predictable set of challenges. Almost all companies we work with suffer from some combination of these; there are no greenfield deployments out there:
- Significant investment in legacy data assets. The organisation has a lot of invested time and capital in the existing data footprint. Many of these are not yet end-of-life and some may in fact be quite recent acquisitions. It can take time to build consensus around the need for yet more costly change.
- Human cost of change. Wholesale transformations can be disruptive and difficult to land successfully. There’s often a human cost as the impacted teams struggle to adapt. Enduring change needs to feel organic and will preferably fuel itself through viral effects within the organisation.
- Vendor dependency. Organisations with large legacy footprints are often feeling the pain of breaking significant single vendor dependencies and looking to the cloud for salvation. Unfortunately, many of the mainstream cloud platforms are now joining forces or rapidly broadening their offerings in a bid to create a new monopoly over insight.
In short, we find our clients often have no choice but to start from the middle. By this we mean adopting an approach that respects the strengths of each of our technology characters, and tries to mitigate the weaknesses:
- We want the quality and integrity of the managed estate, without the turnaround time
- We want the power and functionality of the VBA solution, without the data risk
- We want the ease and transparency of the Cloud BI providers, without the limitations
- We want the scale and value of cloud-native infrastructure, without vendor tie-in.
Unsurprisingly, we think this is where we can help. Metapraxis solutions have been enabling business-led insight for over 30 years. Throughout that time, we have met the needs of our FP&A clients by sitting neatly at the intersection between the tightly governed ERP and the self-built analytics wilderness.
The Empower™ platform now offers hybrid deployment options, to support the needs of clients with a fractured data estate. Leveraging Microsoft Azure, we are bringing our insights closer to the business user, without requiring wholesale architectural change. Our platform will flex, to give your organisation time to adjust to the emerging order.
A few tips to follow when starting from the middle:
- Do your homework. You probably don’t know your business data or your decision processes as well as you thought. Put in the time with all your characters; get to know their secrets.
- Define the desired end-state. The possibilities are endless and are changing daily. Don’t get dazzled. Build consensus around a target end-state, and review both destination and roadmap quarterly.
- Set clear short-term targets. Unless you’ve been very cautious, you can’t reach the end-state in a single jump. What insight gaps can you close quickly that will help your business make better decisions next month? Look for high impact, low-risk opportunities to build credibility.
- Tool up. To bridge the gap between the middle and the end state, you need an analytics platform that can deploy fast, bring rapid value to the whole cast, and adapt to a changing business environment as your cloud journey progresses.
Following these steps gives you a great chance to take the team with you. All four characters above have a valid perspective and a contribution to make to your future success. Plan a strategy that recognises their needs, and it turns out that everyone benefits:
- Custodians of the legacy estate get to see the fruits of their labours providing value to the organisation, empowering the future rather than holding to the past.
- Trouble-shooters channel their reforming zeal through curated data channels and are able to socialise their knowledge and build their brand.
- Quick winners benefit from the functionality of a dedicated business modelling solution, rapidly deployed to meet their urgent needs.
- Cloud infrastructure teams get to flex their creativity in service of the needs of the business and gain high-level visible successes to further advance the organisation’s cloud data journey.