In a rapidly mutating market, most enterprises aspire to be technology disruptors and innovators. Yet, what distinguishes top-performing companies is their ability to synergise business and IT altogether because they came to the realisation that strategically aligning both departments has become an imperative for data-driven business. By contrast, companies who fail to find the balance between empowering business or IT, struggle deeply in successfully delivering and carrying out some kind of initiatives. Taking business decisions without onboarding IT is a common mistake or shall I say a trap that most companies tend to fall into. Drawing a plan without having the means to implement it, is what generally happens when business people build up a strategy and a roadmap of projects without consulting their IT counterparts that fail to secure the technical tools or instruments to carry those projects forward.

In that context, a multinational insurer decided to set up a data office for the Benelux countries. The data office was under the COO reporting chain, meaning that the data office, since day one, was seen as a key asset by the top management. 

The data office focused on data value management (including analytics use cases for market management and pricing), data architecture, BI/EDWH rationalisation, and governance (enterprise data model, metadata management, metadata harvesting, etc.) The data architecture was supposed to support the data value management and the BI rationalisation to cut down on the costs of developing and producing use cases. 

In this company, inter as well as intra-department communication was disrupted and each one of them operated as separate entities. 

The IT department was rather traditional with long architecture and development cycles. The data office needed to act fast, hence decided to bypass the tedious processes of the IT department to design its own data architecture. Still, they needed the IT department to deploy in production the data hub product they chose, since the business people did not have the ability, nor the human capital, to maintain that solution. As a consequence, the situation turned into an organisational warfare between both business and IT departments. The IT people refused to deploy the business people solution and this incited heated debates over the product choice, the absence of validation through a standard IT process, and the fact that the IT people had not been included in the initiative. 

As a result of it all, the data office ended up aborting their data architecture initiative.  

Results, lessons learned and what we can do to help

In the absence of a robust and scalable data architecture, the use cases costs skyrocketed and the expected ROI on each business case was not reached because of the too high ad-hoc infrastructure cost (development & production). 

The lesson learned is that “data infrastructure” is a key pillar for organisations and the foundation for any data-supported action. As such, any initiative that may have an impact on them calls for the simultaneous onboarding of both business and IT departments from the onset. 

In short, you need a way to keep all the flexibility you want as a business organization while keeping the IT fully on board.

Fortunately, modern approaches to data provide exactly that best of both worlds. The ability to consume data in self-service in a managed way allows you to keep momentum on your business projects and optimize the IT costs at the same time.

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