For Best Data Analytics, Collaboration is Key

Data Collaboration

A new report from research firm IDC suggests that “Big Data” projects yield best results when a company’s IT, analytics, and line of business (LOB) units collaborate tightly together.

Seems obvious, right? Except that, as interest in analytics increases among companies, there’s the perception that employees tasked with data crunching can (and should) do their jobs without the involvement of other business units; the rise of powerful “self-service” business-intelligence tools has only emphasized that theme. With many companies’ personnel resources already stretched to the limit, the thinking goes, why should more employees work on a task just as easily accomplished by a handful, if not one?

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Indeed, less than a quarter of IT, line of business, and analytics workers surveyed by IDC rated their collaboration level with other groups as “extensive.” That’s in spite of 75 percent of surveyed IT pros insisting that a high level of collaboration with Line of Business people is key in order to achieve superior results from analytics tools; some 57 percent of those in Line of Business made a similar claim.

“Many line of business and analytics groups pride themselves on their ability to bypass IT to fulfill their own needs for data access and analysis. But there is a fine line between data and analytics democracy and anarchy,” Dan Vesset, program vice president of Big Data and analytics at IDC, wrote in a statement accompanying the data. “Improved collaboration among all stakeholders can help mitigate risks and improve outcomes of BDA projects.”

In a bid to better help employees produce superior analytics results, many companies have begun hiring chief data officers who can—depending on how the role is defined—do everything from coordinating analytics reports to “cleaning up” internal datasets.

“A company only needs a chief data officer when it is ready to fully consider how it wishes to compete with data over the long term and start to build the organizational capabilities it will need to do so,” Thomas C. Redman, self-described “Data Doc” and president of Navesink Consulting Group, wrote in an Oct. 2013 column in the Harvard Business Review. “You need to be ready to charge him or her with fully exploring what it takes to compete with data.”

Trends in “Big Data” for 2014 include the increased prevalence of Apache Hadoop, the open-source framework for running data applications on substantial hardware clusters, as well as rising interest in privacy and security issues surrounding data (thanks, Edward Snowden). Companies will also face the continuing debate over whether to embrace proprietary or open-source analytics technology, or some combination of both. And of course, decisions will need to be made over the degree of analytics collaboration between business units—and the more teamwork, the better, at least according to IDC.

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