Mac Consulting

Leveraging the sweet spot between Agility and Data

In our previous article Leveraging Data-driven Agility in an Agile World, we explored the notion of data-driven decision making in agile delivery environments, which is vitally important in delivering incremental value.

The Oxford Dictionary defines symbiosis as “a mutually beneficial relationship between different entities,” while synergy is defined as “the interaction or cooperation of two or more entities to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” When it comes to data and agility, data enhances agility outcomes; and vice versa. A high maturity of this symbiotic relationship translates into a synergised relationship resulting in agile data.

MAC defines agility as the commitment, focus and ability to maximise the probability and certainty of success despite any challenges which include volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of today’s world.

We achieve this by ensuring the right behaviours, mindset and skills required to deliver the right value in the most feasible, scalable and viable manner in your context for your success

The sweet spot between agility and data can be achieved through leveraging the symbiotic and synergistic potential between agility and data. Below we will highlight this potential and explore the resultant concept of ‘agile data’.

Understanding the symbiotic relationship between data and agility – Data-driven agility

Consider a scenario where you are planning a road trip. Accordingly, you will strive to have as much upfront preparation (destination info, road conditions, right vehicle) and information (destination GPS coordinates, traffic app updates) to make your journey comfortable. You may also decide to leverage opportunities on the way to enhance your journey and get more value from the trip, for example, trying out local restaurants or a winery on the way – all with the help of Google at your fingertips.

The GPS coordinates, traffic app/Google are the channels or tools that provide you with the data which helps you embark and navigate your journey successfully. Furthermore, they proactively mitigate any risks/leverage opportunities considering the value you want from the trip within the timeframe and the acceptable budget for the trip.

Can you imagine the quality of your trip if you did not have the data for informed decision making and had to rely on opinions and gut feelings? Moreover, if you are on this journey in unfamiliar terrain and/or are facing unpredictable weather conditions, the need for timely and quality data for decision-making becomes key. Based on the collective wisdom and collaboration of people associated with your journey – along with data – you can ensure progress in the right direction despite the challenges.

Let’s explore the above example in the context of your organisational journey towards success through the EMBARK–INSPECT–ADAPT model:

The decision making and execution maturity model is associated with EMBARK–INSPECT–ADAPT.

This model helps us assess your current state and desired intended state using the power of agility and data to achieve the best version of your success.

Understanding symbiotic relationship between data and agility – Agility driven data outcomes

Suppose you intend to start a travel agency. You will collate loads of data required for your business. To gain a competitive and first-mover advantage, you will need to ensure that innovative experiences are provided to your clients in a timely manner without the risk of costly failures. Agility mindset and ways of working will help you leverage the potential of data better.

What this means is using data in an agile way as indicated below, resulting in a huge expansion of the company’s data exploration and insight generation:

  • Understand the core use cases that help to leverage maximum potential of data through optimised and innovative ways This is supported by: Better understanding of your customers, customer behaviours, market trends, implicit/explicit opportunities.
  • An agility focus on customer centricity, value-based outcomes, cross-functional collaboration and leveraging collective wisdom between technical and business team members to generate reliable insights that allow the organisation to address its highest business priorities and realise successful outcomes quickly.
  • An agility focus on leveraging the innovations and creative thinking of people involved for enhanced usage of data, along with the agility skill for data experimentation and balancing it with data optimisation.

When using data as part of your use case, the new approach:

  • Ensures early ROI for data investments. This is supported by the agile concept of incremental slicing of data related delivery to ensure that prioritised needs are met quickly, thereby initiating an early ROI.
  • Ensures innovative use of data for enhanced success without costly failures and scaling up in a direction for success based on quick iterative learning. This is supported by the concept of iterative agile slicing and the usage of an agile MVP approach for experimentation.
  • Ensures early and continuous customer delivery and enables customer feedback and insights
  • Minimises complexity.
  • Ensures timely inspection and adaption so that progress is always in the right direction.

Understanding how the effective usage of data can help achieve:

  • Clarity of vision, outcomes and success metrics from a business point of view.
  • Thorough understanding of current pain points, loss of opportunities, and gap between current reality and aspirations.

Once the above clarity and understanding is achieved, a view for required current state and future state from a lens of data management (elements as listed below) can be understood:

  • Data governance.
  • Data strategy and architecture.
  • Data lifecycle.
  • Data quality management.
  • Metadata management.
  • Master data management.
  • Data privacy and security.
  • Data analysis

This understanding helps us to map the data elements transformation roadmap with the organisational success roadmap for enhanced outcomes.

The right prioritisation, slicing and usage of timeboxed approach, periodic inspection and adaption, ensures that prioritised pain points/opportunity areas are mitigated/leveraged at the earliest stage through an optimised/experimental approach.

The symbiotic relationship between agility and data as outlined above is one of the key contributors to success. High maturity of this symbiotic relationship translates into a synergised relationship between agility and data which results in agile data.

Agile data is produced when data management and governance is based on a mature foundation of agility. Some characteristics of agile data include:

  • It is based on simple modular design.
  • It is easy to slice with logical granularity.
  • Enables easier and speedier ways to combine data sets for enabling innovative outcomes.
  • It is supported by automation.
  • Is easier to scale.
  • Helps leverage benefits of ‘Big data’ more effectively.
  • Enables evolutionary data modelling that is iterative and/or incremental in nature.

At a certain level of agile data maturity, it naturally starts contributing to enhancing agility outcomes and data outcomes. This leads to the potential of achieving exponentially enhanced value (BIRTSStm* value)outcomes in your context for your success.

BIRTSStm value is value that is benefit driven, investment optimal, risk managed, timely, sustainable and scalable. (BIRTSStm – Dipti Batta – MAC consultancy)

In conclusion, the transformative power of a symbiotic and synergistic relationship between data and agility will allow organisations to respond quickly to opportunities based on data insights and foresights, and ensure that vast possibilities with data are explored innovatively to ensure first mover advantage. It is not an either/or scenario; Data-Agility synergy contributes immensely to competitive advantage in a world that will only grow more data driven.

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