Applying Zero-based Budgeting to Get Zero-Based Analytics

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How many times are you asked to justly the Analytics and BI team or the work they regularly undertake in behalf of the business? If you are responsible for supporting or producing insight as a service to your business counterparts, which is a common capability in many IT organizations, then you will be familiar with the question posed. As the COVID-19 crisis wound on, you most likely heard the question several times, and you didn’t have to wait for the annual budget cycle. It’s a fair question. But is a tricky one too, for several reasons. First, many business folks ask for insight and at the time it is a good request. You dutifully develop a dashboard or a report, meeting requirements as requested. But over time the business question that led to the request, or the business user themselves, may have moved on. Indeed, the business challenge may have been mastered. Yet the reports keep on being delivered. The consumer of the information has no financial or any incentive to communicate the resources could be reallocated to something else. Second many such business requests for information are flawed or erroneous. There are many reasons for this. A classic is that you spot two other similar requests for, say, customer life-time value, that have come recently from other parts of the organization. As such you could again dutifully deliver the insight, or you could in fact step up and collaborate with the separate requester and suggest a more joined-up solution with better information. This leads to the second persona of D&A: the consultant. And this is the forerunner to the emergence of a Chief Data Officer. Third the questions from the business might downright wrong. The users might be barking up the wrong tree. A classic here is when someone in the front office is asking for some data that you know is of dubious quality. As such the information, as developed, would lead to the wrong confusion and the worsening outcome. In this case you may step out of the Consulting role and right into the Leadership function: the third persona of D&A. As leader you craft a vision for what is actually required with business leadership peers, and you are able to ‘speak data’ and help the rest of the organization with better understanding for what constitutes the least amount of data and analytics governance that drives business value. At the end of the way the common trick here is zero based analytics. As with zero based budgeting each year or planning period you should reset the analytics function to zero. All requests and projects for data should be re-validated. Each should have had a sponsor and a owner anyway, so test them with a short, simple, one or two question survey, to validate the info is still needed and the degree of business value each is yielding. Use the response to whittle down the masses set of reports, dashboard and projects maintained. Free up cash to invest in new innovations. Zero based analytics is a cute trick to keep on top of process debt that tends to pile up in every organization.  

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