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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

How Centers of Excellence Must Evolve to Support Your Data-Driven Future

The CoE role is expanding to meet the demands of data democratization.

Centers of excellence (CoEs) have an important and evolving role that can make their businesses stronger. The role of a CoE was once limited to managing data and unearthing use cases for data and analytics. That changed as the pandemic brought forth a massive acceleration in the use of data and analytics and led to the growth of self-service business intelligence.

For Further Reading:

Reimagining the Analytics CoE

You Found a Data Scientist -- Now What? The Case for Building a Center of Excellence

Data Democracy Now: Advantages, Issues, and Implementation

Data democratization that comes with this expanding use of data means data can finally be used by those equipped with the right skills and tools for more informed decision making. To provide the degree of excellence that organizations have come to expect, the role of CoEs must expand to focus on empowerment, education, and information sharing.

Ensure Access to the Rright Data and Tools

Data democratization requires change management and a general understanding that the role of CoEs is maturing. CoEs can best serve an organization by ensuring that people have the access they need to the data that would be useful to them, as well as the necessary tools to make the most of that data. No doubt this requires a balance in governance -- it wouldn’t serve anyone well to open the floodgates and allow access to all data by all individuals. From security and regulations to legalities and the overall risks associated with open access, data needs to be governed as well as accessible.

This is part of a strategy of empowering employees to do more with data. Instead of building dashboards and specific point solutions, CoEs should focus on supporting an analytics ecosystem. A CoE must foster an analytics environment where the entire organization can participate (to various degrees) in self-service, on-demand analytics. This is a key outcome of successful data democratization and an essential step toward developing an organization that is data driven.

Share Information Across Departments

It is not uncommon for data silos to prevent teams from freely sharing information across departments. This can greatly limit the value of the data collected throughout the organization. Manufacturing, for example, may benefit from data gathered by sales and marketing and vice versa. R&D may be able to unearth valuable insights from the data collected by the firm’s accountants. The potential is only limited by the amount of data shared.

Good governance is crucial here to ensure that sensitive data is not exposed, and this is yet another area where CoEs can demonstrate their wealth of experience and unparalleled level of expertise. By shifting their role to one of leadership and empowerment, a CoE can play an integral role in how data is collected, shared, and used. It can help shape the guidelines of a governance strategy that protects data without preventing it from being used by those with a genuine business analytics need.

Improving Worker Skills Enhances Future Growth

Data scientists and other experts who make up a CoE could work on a data team and have a full-time job simply moving data around from the latest container technology to the next container technology. In the past, that would have kept them remarkably busy. However, today’s modern, data-driven enterprise is moving to the cloud, which can free up time that allows the CoE to pivot to an enablement role, especially to help colleagues become more data literate.

It may seem counterintuitive that CoEs should lead the “upskilling” revolution in its enterprise’s workforce -- after all, a CoE members are the data experts. However, it has become clear that when a CoE collects and disperses data that never gets used, it needs to stop and ask why. More often than not, data is dropped into a black hole because managers, directors, and even executive-level decision makers are unable to read, understand, and work with the data they are given. These skills are naturally built into the data scientist and analyst roles, but as organizations evolve, all employees must be sufficiently data literate to make effective business decisions. By advocating for and helping employees elevate their skills, CoEs can build stronger teams and, as a result, stronger organizations.

Empower, Educate, and Share

Digital transformations have been accelerating at an unprecedented pace. Businesses need to quickly embrace solutions that allow them to move faster and handle unanticipated events, which ultimately means they must fully embrace the idea of becoming data-driven.

Instead of their historical role as gatekeepers to the company’s most valuable information, CoEs need to evolve into champions of data democratization. The potential value of data increases every day; as more employees search for ways to use it to their advantage, CoEs will become more important than ever. A CoE can empower and educate staff and improve information sharing, which will help reshape enterprises and build data-driven organizations.

About the Author

Mike Potter is the chief technology officer at Qlik where he is responsible for leading Qlik’s R&D and information technology organizations. Since joining Qlik in 2014, Mike scaled the R&D team and played a critical role in designing and building innovative products and transforming the delivery cadence, from one major product launch a year, to multiple product releases delivered throughout the year. You can reach the author via LinkedIn.

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