Data and Architecture, pt. 1: Ask the Right Questions

Your business needs to better use its data — but what does that mean? Context matters. Data governance, reporting and analytics, business intelligence. When you approach your data architecture, first start with asking the right questions that solve business challenges. What data does the sales team need to increase sales by x %? What data does the engineering team need to work on and innovate products that provide competitive advantage?

Similar questions have inspired companies to disrupt markets. Uber started with asking questions like, how can we optimize drivers at the right locations with the most customer demand? How can we give consumers the ability to call a cab with a click of a button? Tomasz Tunguz highlights similar examples in his book Winning with Data, where he states that “the best data-driven companies operationalize data.” To operationalize data is where companies can use the right data to rapidly change the way they operate.

In order to use the right data, ask the right questions. Gartner states exactly this, “Ask the right questions” in the 2015 article Big Data Analytics Failures and How to Prevent Them. Simply, what problem or toughest business challenge is your company trying to solve with data?

At the foundation and beginning practice of enterprise architecture, dating back to the 70’s with the Zachman Framework, the principle question related to data was “what data is needed to list the things most important to the business?” The framework focuses on the “what”, what is needed, in order to produce the right enterprise, data and technology models for the best use of data.

In order to harness the “Power of Data”, HBR suggests that companies start with the business problem in mind, and then “seek to gain insights from vast amounts of data.” With stating the specific business problem, companies can narrow the search and refine how they are going to find data-driven answers to their most challenging business problems.

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