What if you managed your data function like a product?

Feature image for What if you managed your data function like a product?


It’s a common war cry of the IT department, “We are business lead!”, but are we, and if not, how can we be better? Too often, this is a hollow aspiration, and we only ask “the business” questions that help us make IT decisions, not to support the business effectively. We ask the wrong questions; instead of trying to understand business goals, we only ask how they want their IT configured.

Data teams and internal analytics capabilities should be managed like a product. Doing so helps you map out the capabilities you need to build a market presence (where the market is your internal business stakeholders/and business partners), create momentum and establish the organisational capability to capture value from data.

Change your perspective

What if your data team/service was a product? How would that change the conversation?

To start, we’d complete market research, trying to understand our customers (the business) top priorities; we’d think about their journey/roadmap and identify capabilities that we can build to be relevant to them at different stages of the journey.

Of the services that we offered, we’d conduct analysis and market research to understand customer satisfaction levels. We would understand how our customers interact with our products and services and monitor adoption and uptake, adjusting our offering to ensure our customers were successful in achieving their goals. We’d be thinking about customer churn (e.g. shadow IT/analytics, external vendors, etc.) as well as ways that we could better service different customer segments (Self-Service Business Intelligence & Analytics, data mesh, etc).

We’d think about how our customers move between different customer segments and understand those that are happy to outsource services to our team. We’d understand their behaviour and develop products/services to match (i.e. lower price points/rapid delivery, etc). Where our customers see data and analytics as strategic to their outcomes, we’d scan the market, and partner with providers that augment our capability, working hand in hand with all stakeholders to achieve those outcomes.

Market share would be something we track, trying to understand how effective we’ve been in establishing a data-driven culture. We’d think about our competitors and alternatives (Business Analysis), strategizing to ensure we position our services effectively to our target customers. We’d partner with competitors or alternatives, helping them (Business Analysts, etc) understand how to incorporate our offerings with theirs to deliver even more value to customers. We’d train and educate the target market to enable them to understand the value of our products/services and when they are relevant, if not essential, to achieving the business outcomes they seek. We’d establish channels to communicate these messages, through HR departments and communications teams. We’d have customers come and talk to us about their industry/function, key trends, and priorities. We’d become partners!

Walk before you run to Extract Value

Too often, organisations are bedazzled by consulting firms, touting their maturity models, luring you to establish your current location and guiding you to achieve the technical capabilities that will enable you to achieve some lofty “maturity” goal. It’s not that we don’t have an approach, everyone does, but this isn’t where we expect our customers to benefit from our advice anymore – try googling “analytics maturity models” and choose one, it is a very helpful tool, and there is a lot of literature to support them. They can help guide you through a number of important decisions you’ll need to make, like the right questions to solve, the best operating model to support the business and the right data architecture to help you deliver.

The challenge with this approach is that the focus quickly becomes building new technology capabilities. This is music to the ears of the IT team; that’s what we do. It isn’t that this doesn’t help; it does. The problem is that it isn’t focused on achieving prioritised business outcomes, as many key business outcomes don’t require new technology investment.

There are two things we think businesses need to consider first, before investing in new technology:

  • Do we know where we will get the highest ROI on our analytics investment?
  • Once we invest, are we capable of capturing the value?

We believe that it is more important to establish an “end-to-end” data value chain that allows you to achieve business outcomes and capture the value of data products. New technology investments can then be prioritised and embedded into the business to maximise that value or to address additional value streams.

The focus should be on ensuring that technology investments are aligned with business priorities so that when complete, you can capture value from these investments (across whatever gap you need to address in your maturity – maturity is not the goal, but it is an enabler).

Come speak to our experts at Exco Partners and benefit from our open and focused approach to using data to capture business value. Ask for a free 2-hour workshop to understand where you should invest, and whether you are getting value from your existing capability.

Get in touch

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you to manage your data team like a product.

Contact Us