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2021 – A year of consolidation

As we look to move on from 2020 and the disruption that it held, it is clear that 2021 will be a year of admin activities. Across 2020 we all took decisions rapidly and the IT landscape of many businesses went through three to five years of change in a concise period of time – days if not hours for some businesses. The net result is that we will all have to normalise our new businesses practices at some point.

The pace of change required within many businesses last year was unprecedented; it has convinced the world that rapid change is not bad and that it is the path to success. I am already hearing that 2021 is going to be the year that DevOps fully comes of age. What does that mean for us in the world of Data Analytics? Does DevOps really apply to us?

To answer that question, we need to look at the origin and methodology behind true DevOps; Google is credited with determining what DevOps should be and what the principal should be. It falls to the idea of planning, preparation and modularity.

Planning

By documenting your process and being clear about what should be happening and when it becomes possible to determine what activities need to be undertaken

Prepatation

Looking at the plan allows you to code solutions; solutions can be for positive activities and prepare for negative events.

Modularity

Code must be lightweight and able to be retooled/reused with little or no human involvement.

Code Team “Owns” the whole management cycle

Result

The net result of these three is an agile solution that is as self-correcting as possible with context (parameters) being used to allow multiple uses of all elements, i.e. having a single “Write to log” module, with parameters being used to determine Title, Description, Start Status, End Status. As you use simple components to make rapid minor changes to keep performance within agreed specifications. So DevOps is about Automation. In addition to this (and many would say the crux of DevOps) as code becomes more critical and code being used/reused, traditional Change Management methodologies cannot effectively manage the solution instead the coding team begins to monitor their own work and determine the delivery pipeline… This whole situation’s implications are that the business hands over control, management, and accountability of their process to a code-focused team (typically IT).

For Analytics?

Power BI works remarkably well with the DevOps mindset; however, it must be made clear that there s a divide and that divide becomes the biggest challenge to balancing a lasting Power BI Enterprise Grade solution.

DevOps in Power BI

So Enterprise Analytics can benefit from a DevOps mentality. When done correctly, the bonds formed between the main Business Community and the Power BI Team have wider benefits. To achieve excellence in your Analytics Vision requires close integration with report consumers and those carrying out the activities being focused upon. In other words, the value in a “Sales Report” is only provided because the report shows the Sales Director what she needs to see in terms of success and failure while being clearly aligned to the sales team’s working patterns.

2020 is now firmly behind us. Looking at the future, we must all now consolidate on the rapid business changes implemented to keep the business going and transition back into a “Business as Usual” (BAU) mindset. DevOps is excellent for BAU in an uncertain world because it embraces the principle that everything is not always perfect. The principal of inbuilt error or issue management enables your business to carry on. The simplest example of this within Power BI is the refresh model. A parallel refresh is used so there is no downtime during the data load; additionally, should the refresh fail the last known good version remains up and available. A clear example that Microsoft has developed the platform with DevOps at the centre.

email office@geordieconsulting.co.uk and we can get you moving forward.

What is data-driven

One of the questions I get asked is what Data-Driven means, is the reality of this concept possible? To understand the question, let us take a data-driven approach and look at the alternative or “What is done today.” Across a business, there are three types of decisions: Operational, Tactical and Strategic.

Operational: Day-to-day decisions, “Fred is sick, so Owen and Jeff will need to cover some of the tasks.” 

Tactical: Short-term plans, “Fred has been sick, so Project Champion risks delay, there is a penalty clause so to avoid that we need to either provide overtime or seek a contract resource.”

Strategic: Medium and Long-term plans, “We must expand our delivery pipeline and take on more projects so we can increase our revenue and cash reserves. We will achieve this by taking on two additional developers.”

If this seems familiar to you, then I have done a reasonable job of setting out what I see when people first start their journey with us. Operational and Tactical decisions tend to be data-driven by definition; something has happened and requires a response. The options available are limited. It is possible to define actions through if this then that style of remediations. The strategy is where data-driven typically fails for many businesses. There is a common misunderstanding that Goals and Strategy are the same; they are not. A company may have the goal of “Expanding operations in China”, or “Grow 3% YoY”. A strategy is a broad view of how to achieve the goals “In the next two years we will open a service centre in China” or “We will establish a staff development pipeline to support our growth”. When excessive detail becomes part of the strategy, then it drifts very quickly into the realms of Tactical or even operational decision making. When that happens, the result is Chaos! The Data Community must take their share of the blame for why Good Strategy goes bad as well.

The CEO needs three lights on her desk; Red, Amber & Green if Green then she can play golf.

While that’s a joke, there is a surprising amount of truth in the statement; your CEO must be focused on strategy. When you routinely present management layers that should be focused on strategy with Tactical or Operational data, you invite them to micromanage. So there has to be a balance as you move to become data-driven. Your strategy needs to define success factors and then review the validity of those periodically. REMEMBER – “wrong” does not always mean incorrect; great strategy drives behaviours that will lead to the goal. So those defined “Success Factors” will lead to your tactical decisions being far more transparent with people able to pre-empt changes. Operational decisions are also able to influence “Success Factors” so you see Tactical changes being made as a result.

Let’s put this into a scenario to see if it makes sense. In 2020 COVID has had a significant impact on our lives. In the UK, we have adopted a Micro-management strategy, that makes it impossible to plan or prepare anything beyond a week or two in the future. What would the data-driven alternative be?

Goal: Preserve the UK economy and workforce

Strategy: In the absence of a vaccine ensure that support services are not overwhelmed, and businesses are given the best chances of remaining viable. 

“Success Factors”

  1. R-rate 
  2. Intensive Care Bed Utilisation – %

Ideally, you want to look for four or five success factors. Each success factor is then assigned a Red, Amber Green value, i.e. R-Rate less than 1 = Green, 1.0 – 2.0 = Amber greater than 2.0 = Red. By combining your factors, you can build up local pictures to allow people to engage and prevent the tactical decision to implement restrictions actively. So, by presenting your Success Factors together and defining clear rules, i.e. all green = low risk, one amber = medium risk, three ambers = High risk, All Amber or one Red = Very High Risk. By adopting this view, it becomes possible to present just the four levels when required and a local breakdown of those figures for people to be able to understand where their area is today and if it is moving in a positive or negative direction. 

I hope you can see from this simple example that when you become data-driven decisions become clearer, and most importantly, things stabilise. It becomes clear what will be done under the circumstances, and that brings greater levels of clarity to your business. Like building innovation requires stability; so if you want your business to benefit from Continual Improvements or foster Innovations, then you need to provide that stability. My goal has always been to empower businesses through their data. Geordie Consulting brings a wealth of experience and skills to support your business transformation.

Ross Waterston
Director (Founder)
Geordie Consulting & Geordie Intelligence

Change your perspective

black and white blackboard business chalkboard

The work we do in partnership with Geordie Intelligence is a significant part of what we do, and it gives us an excellent way of showing what we can deliver. Dataset 007: Loans allowed us to introduce Process Mining to a broader audience.

Process Mining is a method coming of age, thanks to technology. Henry Ford invented the Production Line still used in many factories today. Process Mining is the modern way of assessing the success of a Production Line; the best thing is that it applies anywhere. In the last decade, I have seen more solutions delivered with “Journaling” capabilities. Combine that and your existing KPI’s (or a standard set) suddenly the goal of Continual Improvement becomes rooted in your data.

In the past, I would help people to embed principals of Continual Improvement. No solution is ever perfect, and it should be furthest from perfect on delivery day. Accepting that truth is one I have witnessed all levels of a business struggle with, however, in life, we believe it, so why do we struggle in business?

“Why do we fall Master Bruce?”
Alfred – Batman

A little-known gentleman called Benjamin Franklin said

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Year on year company executives say that is going deliver growth in an area or expect revenues to change x%, how is any of that possible without change. That change is Continual Improvement. Remember Continual Improvement activities do not always yield a direct positive result, in those cases, you learn, and that is the “improvement”.

Back to Process Mining. The ability to see where things are taking a long time to complete allows you to identify areas for possible improvement. Seeing cycles (steps flip-flopping or chains of steps looping back) is a clear opportunity for progress. It is also much simpler to quantify benefit as you can see “optimally” routed instances and see how they have performed against these “sub-optimal”. Remember, suddenly, it is possible to embed this directly into your Enterprise Analytics Platform. The value proposition offered by Process Mining is enormous, embedded Process Mining is significantly more valuable. At Geordie Consulting we’ve been working with Processes. We have delivered across many of the processes businesses use from HR, Finance, Sales, R&D to IT. This breadth of experience means we can always add value. We want to maximise the utilisation of the data you have already. This will grow not just your Analytical capabilities but also your Continual Improvement opportunities. Get in touch and start your continual improvement.

Ross Waterston
Director (Founder)
Geordie Consulting & Geordie Intelligence

Building a Data Culture

Recently we have been following a video series on YouTube that shares a lot of what we are trying to do. It is always comforting to know that our beliefs are not completely out there.

Here at Geordie Consulting we embrace the principals of #dataculture, and #datadrivendecisionmaking. However, we believe that the benefits of this mindset are not just for business. #powerbi will benefit your #businessintelligence, but as you use it more you will find that the accessibility of #dataanalytics within the tool makes #insights and #innovation accessible also.

Please take some time to watch Matthew’s Video series. it is extremely well thought out and is something we would advise all businesses to be thinking about.

We have arrived

Geordie Consulting Limited Logo

Geordie Consulting is finally here. The last five years have made this possible. For more than 20 years I have been trying to identify a solution to the challenges I faced with my customers; how to enable them to manage their own data and to gain insights into what their business or business area is doing. Five years ago, Power BI burst onto the scene and everything changed. Suddenly a Business Intelligence (BI) tool was born, based around the familiar Excel environment that is so near and dear to so many. Power BI also did another amazing trick. It made it possible for non-specialists to consume reports then change a few filters to gain the insights they needed.

I hope you’ll join us in our journey to change the way we all do business. I believe in Democratisation of Data, alongside the good things come from being open and transparent. Only by improving our Data Literacy can we do that. And who knows, as we all become a little smarter with our data, maybe together we can change the world!

Ross Waterston
Director (Founder)
Geordie Consulting & Geordie Intelligence