Uncovering the root cause of business problems should be the No. 1 priority for any company looking to solve them. While treating the squeaky wheel is often tempting, identifying the optimal long-term solution saves time, money and resources.
For example, if you have a persistent stomachache, you can relieve the discomfort with Pepto Bismol. But if it goes on for weeks or months, you could be masking a serious problem with everyone’s favorite pink drink. And, if you don’t identify what is causing the stomach aches, it could become a bigger, more complex problem later.
It’s the same with the business problems our clients face. If an oil and gas company is heavily dependent on Excel and is struggling to analyze data and create accurate reports and visualizations, installing Tableau or Power BI to up-level its reporting and analytics ability will allow employees to make some great visualizations. But, if data is still being manually transferred between systems before it gets to Tableau or Power BI, employees will still struggle through highly manual tasks when their time could be better spent, and the reports and visualizations could still be inaccurate.
As a technology partner, Blueprint Technologies prioritizes discovering the root cause of every issue a company faces. As the first step, we recommend a Course of Action Assessment (CoAA) that begins with focused interviews with key stakeholders and a deep dive into a client’s processes, procedures, governance and data infrastructure. Only by understanding a client’s current state can our experts design the best roadmap to achieve the desired future state. We believe solutions should always be customized to fit specific business needs and goals, and a CoAA allows Blueprint to understand those requirements before developing a solution, eliminating the need for later rework.
It takes trust and communication to ensure everyone is on the same page from the outset of a large project. It can involve hard conversations, but when a project doesn’t start with an assessment, it can create a frustrating environment for both the client and the technology partner.
Business problems are like icebergs. They can appear manageable from the surface, but the problems could be stemming from much larger issues than first assumed.
Take, for example, the work we did for a young firm that had been acquiring a lot of smaller companies. It wanted to quickly combine its data in a modernized cloud-based data platform to more easily ingest data from newly acquired companies and analyze all data holistically to produce reports to guide business decisions.
That’s a relatively straightforward need – we create modern data estates regularly and can quickly customize solutions for companies based on their current infrastructure and goals. But these projects’ complexity and timeframe can vary widely depending on a company’s current data architecture. Going into this project, the company said it had all the requirements built out for a smooth migration, so a CoAA was not included in the project.
Had the project begun with a CoAA, it would have been immediately apparent the data was not ready to be migrated. To recreate a data environment in the cloud, you must first understand the nature of the data, where it lives and what transformations happen throughout the data pipeline. These are requirements for connecting and analyzing data whether a company operates in the cloud or on premises. The symptom here was the difficulty the company had accessing and analyzing data, but the root cause of the problem was that the company had no clear understanding of data governance or established business rules.
Because this issue wasn’t identified until the migration project began, it created an environment filled with constantly moving targets. The business rules and requirements had to be uncovered before the migration could take place, causing delays with the project and frustrating both teams. As Blueprint started digging into the data, other projects were identified, and priorities began to shift for some stakeholders. Had Blueprint evaluated the company’s data and infrastructure and interviewed stakeholders at the outset, the root causes would have been revealed immediately, enabling Blueprint to provide a valuable roadmap breaking down the project scope, objectives, deliverables and quick wins to drive ROI. This is a critical step that provides everyone with a clear understanding of the vision and sets priorities and expectations from the outset.
Blueprint worked with another company experiencing a similar problem. An oil and gas company planned to deprecate a legacy server, so it wanted to stream its telemetry data straight from its oil rigs into a cloud-based environment rather than its on-prem server.
The company opted not to start with a thorough Course of Action assessment, so Blueprint created a plan based on the information shared by the client. But soon after the work started, it became clear that the project was much larger than what was scoped. As resources and subject matter experts left the company, there was not a clear sense of how data flowed, nor could they provide detailed current state architectural diagrams.
A major disruption occurred when Blueprint learned a month before the server was due to be shut down that some of the upstream data transformation work that was going to be used by the new cloud-based workstream was actually taking place in a program within the to-be-shut-down server.
If the project had begun with a Business Analyst interviewing everyone about who uses what data, where they retrieve data from and what steps they take to do it, the root of the problem would have been uncovered immediately, avoiding the surprises and rework that delay the development of value-add work.
An assessment does add a marginal amount of time to the initial stage of a project but gathering information and requirements from the start saves what will likely be twice as much time, stress and frustration for both the client and the technology partner. Additionally, by understanding the full scope of the problems a business is facing early, stakeholders can get all the necessary buy-in from the outset and can make more strategic decisions when setting priorities to achieve their desired future state.
Blueprint combines the expertise of our Business Analysts, developers, solution architects and data scientists to assess the complicated, often piecemeal, designs of companies’ digital landscapes, identifying ways to increase competitive advantage and facilitate business growth and opportunities. Beginning with a Course of Action Assessment ensures efficient, impactful data projects that get to the root cause of any problem to quickly drive ROI.
Let’s start a conversation today about where you’re looking to take your data, and how Blueprint can help you get there.