People, Process, Technology - PPT
The most important factor is People; get this right and the rest will follow. You need to be sure that the users of your new, shiny SAS system are properly trained in all aspects of the system and have the appropriate professional skills, experience and qualifications too. For example, making the most effective use of SAS's data mining technology requires data mining skills, not just a knowledge of what the buttons and menus offer.
Beyond people, Process is crucial. You need to build and document your business processes and workflows before you get into detailed design of your technology, else you'll end-up with the tail wagging the dog! Train your people on your new processes, but be sure to involve them in the development of those processes in order to get their buy-in.
But, what is a business process? Put simply, it's a sequence of activities, started by a trigger event, and ending in a defined output and/or output, with specified steps performed by specified people/roles. Some examples would include:
Process#1: Produce new churn reportYou need to define processes for a variety of aspects of your system, not just the business outputs. Make sure you have processes that cover support and administration too. Earlier this year I did a post-implementation review of a multi-million pound SAS analytics platform whose development had focused on technology and pushed people and processes to the side. The first few weeks after go-live had been very painful for users, IT and sponsors alike. Seeing the problems, everybody had pitched-in and had stabilised the system such that it could be used productively, but the post-implementation review warned that the system would not remain stable if proper processes were not put in place quickly.
Trigger: Request from head of marketing
Output: New, scheduled churn report delivered to information delivery portal
Process#2: Credit score a potential new loan customer
Trigger: Potential customer telephones call centre
Output: Accept/reject potential customer's request for a loan
Some of the things highlighted in the post-implementation review were:
- No data governance model, including an absence of data ownership/stewardship/custodianship, and an absence of a strategy for dealing with data quality and data loading issues
- No change control processes for handling new groups of users, requests for new data sources, etc
- No defined support processes specifying single points of contact for key areas
At its simplest, you can document a process as a series of steps, with one or more trigger events, with inputs and outputs for each step, with named people or job roles for each step. Swim lane diagrams are often used to document this information. Start by capturing the big steps in the process, then drill into the detail.
Ignore processes and people at your peril: the success of your project depends on them far more than the technology!