Bringing Operational Analytics Online  5 Easy Pieces

Here are five simple steps that enterprises should take as they bring new operational analytics solutions online


Taking a structured implementation is crucial. It begins with the design stage, where the project team defines the scope, timeline and necessary resources. However, during this design stage, they also have to leave enough flexibility within the project to change if needed. Businesses are ever-changing, so the metrics a company may be looking at today may not be the ones it needs to consider six months from now. The new owner of the project after the rollout has to be able to continually tailor and morph the solution into what makes the most sense for the business at that time, not six months earlier.

Another key component of the structured implementation is the conference room pilot. If the design stage has been thoroughly thought through, the conference room pilot should result in just a few tweaks before a full rollout. However, the conference room pilot, which will include a significant number of end users, should take place two to three weeks before the operational analytics go live. That will give the project team enough time to revalidate the changes that were made before it is rolled out to the rest of the end users.

3. Ensure End User Adoption — The biggest challenge to ensuring end user adoption is change management. Identify, understand and address the needs of key stakeholders throughout the company by developing and executing a communications plan early and often. You can enhance this effort by leveraging informal thought leaders within the organization as well.

Unfortunately, some companies make the mistake of throwing the whole project over the wall to IT to deliver on the project. Sometimes it's because there isn't enough executive involvement to make people pay attention, or other operational responsibilities pull people from the business side of the house away from the project. That's a recipe for failure.

If key influencers within the end user community are not invested in the success of the project, it will be much more difficult to get the other business users to embrace the changes these new analytics bring. Going through a process change can be a pretty big deal not just to the people in the primary department, but also to end users in other business areas who may have to input data in a different format. The benefits of change have to be communicated clearly, and management has to enforce the expectation that how they use the new analytics will have a direct impact on their evaluations.

One other audience not to overlook is the informal thought leaders within your organization. This might be the sales managers who are known as the gadget guys — people who always have the latest gee-whiz technology on their cell phone or BlackBerry and are respected by their peers for their technology know-how. Involve these informal thought leaders throughout the design phase, the conference room pilot and even communications, so your project can benefit from their sterling reputations within the end-user community.

4. Take a Phased Implementation Approach — Don't try to implement your new operational analytics across every facet of your enterprise all at once. You can realize your business objectives and a greater return on investment (ROI) more quickly through shorter, easier-to-manage phases implemented throughout the supply chain according to your prioritized business objectives.

For instance, it's nearly impossible to build a dashboard around 50 different metrics. It is best to pick anywhere from five to 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) that focus on the key business initiatives you have prioritized within your organization. Coming up with too many metrics — especially during an initial rollout — puts end users in an unenviable position where they can't make a decision because they are looking at 100 different things.

Later on, after a successful implementation, the executive sponsor can help expand the scope of the operational analytics. For instance, the original objective may have been focused on inventory management. Next, the executive sponsor can assist in getting the same solution expanded into other areas, such as sales, marketing or supplier relationship management.

5. Best Practices are Best — In today's rapidly evolving business technology environment, you should be able to quickly leverage your technology investment out of the box through solutions that incorporate proven industry best practices. If you have to replicate existing practices with new technology that's more complex in nature, then you have a greater chance of failure.

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