Want to Implement a Big-Data Strategy? Don't Forget the People
By Naomi Weiser
With 300 million users, it definitely makes sense as to why Skype is so interested in big-data analytics.
“We just had enormous amounts of data and it felt like we weren’t using it to run our business," explained keynote speaker and Microsoft's global head of business transformation, Yuval Dvir, today at TM Forum’s Big Data In Focus Amsterdam summit, about Skype’s big-data transformation. “We wanted to take the noise out and focus on what really mattered" (which, in Skype’s case, was to focus on growth).
Describing big data as a “revolution," a word that infers great disruption to the norm, Dvir shared the challenges behind the implementation, citing the importance of having the proper strategy, business principles, traceability, transparency and a supporting infrastructure, in order to make this transformation happen.
But what I found interesting was how much emphasis Dvir placed on the cultural changes that had to be overcome in order to motivate and incentivize their employees to make sure they support the strategy.
It wasn’t just about Skype recognizing that if they wanted to change the way people work by embedding data and the culture of data into their daily activities, it should be done gradually to avoid resistance. They also acknowledged the fact that not everyone has the skills to extract and use data, and can find it intimidating. Skype needed to bring the right data to the right people in the right format, acknowledging the fact that if the data isn’t easy to use and accessible to everyone, they won’t use it – an opinion echoed a few minutes later by Steffen Krause, technical evangelist at Amazon Web Services, who explained that tools need to appeal to end users since “not everyone is a data scientist." And one way that Skype ensured the tools would be more appealing was by involving their people in building the tools, incorporating ideas and feedback from different groups across the company to make them feel like “they owned them."
And the final message for implementing a successful big-data transformation with the potential to impact everyone in the company (and not just IT side)? Alignment to all parts of the business, tied together with top-down executive support, with Dvir admitting the impact that changes in organizational structure had on the transformation: “You had movement and then that vanished because there’d been a reorganization and the sponsorship had gone."
I read an ATKearney consultancy group report recently which stated that for every successful big-data implementation, there is an equally successful change management program. With so many companies recognizing the need to implement a proper big-data strategy but unsure how to get started, Skype’s change-management story is one to keep an eye on.
This blog was written by Amdocs Voices Editor Naomi Weiser, originally published in Amdocs Voices.