When it comes to gaining analytics efficiency and efficacy, centralizing big data efforts through cultural transformation is crucial, according to AT&T's associate director of technology, Sarah Obermayer.
On April 19, Obermayer delivered a lecture at Light Reading's Upskill University on building and maintaining effective centralized analytics teams. Obermayer leads the team that manages AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Global Supply Chain's Data and Analytics program. She explained how when the program began, it was more dispersed but has transitioned to a Center of Excellence structure focused on increasing the use of advanced analytics and becoming more centralized. Referencing her own experience at AT&T, Obermayer explained how to connect all aspects of a telco and its data through centralized data-analytics management. (See Building a Centralized Analytics Team.)
The key to all of this, said Obermayer, is a "cultural transformation" -- data-driven change management that is flexible to the needs of the disparate departments and people in the organization, but also effective enough to unite those disparate elements.
Obermayer advised that, regardless of the type of project, it's important to set and centralize clear expectations while keeping different perspectives in mind. In particular, Obermayer noted, as more parts of the organization become more aware of and more involved in supply-chain data processes, there is a lot of "connecting the dots" to be done. Obermayer reported that, while doing this at AT&T, she found it remarkably helpful to openly search for -- and partner with -- analytics advocates in other areas of the organization.
Obermayer said that her team has made substantial headway since last year in forming internal partnerships with senior management, and she explained that executive advocates can help champion the cultural transformation necessary to the success of analytics centralization.
"[Those are] partnerships that have helped through this journey," observed Obermayer.
Still, partnerships and dot-connecting aside, Obermayer maintains that centralized data teams must ensure that their own goals are deferred to by differing minds and their perspectives. Only by maintaining "one version of the truth" organization-wide, can advanced analytics initiatives succeed.
"A key challenge is differing expectations and priorities," said Obermayer. "So, a project goal of "one version of the truth" is a good goal and resonates with some. But in addressing that, you have to be realistic in that it does not resonate with all. The key is to acknowledge the different goals, but it cannot distract from your charter focus. Whether that is a technical development, or an organization's aspect, or standardization -- whatever component you're focusing on, you need to stay true to that goal."
After one listener remarked that decentralized populism can be more agile, Obermayer conceded the point that centralization is "not as quick to respond," but held fast to the benefits of a centralized analytics team.
"One of the advantages of a centralized analytics team is it can set the tone across the entire organization... A centralized analytics team can define the toolsets, make the recommendations, and do some of those things and have that agility," said Obermayer.
With this kind of centralized and dedicated digital transformation through cultural transformation, reported Obermayer, analytics initiatives have successfully helped AT&T expand and integrate its supply chain.
"We're definitely a global supply chain structure now," said Obermayer. "In the past, it had a little bit of a different structure that was more siloed which has been changed over the years. The approach also focused more on business intelligence and reporting than analytics at that time."
—Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation