An effective digital transformation initiative involves evaluating the entire organization and its assets, from operational workflows to technology portfolio, and matching each asset or process to the company’s overarching business goals. It can be a painstaking process requiring business leaders to scrutinize every element of their organization without losing sight of the big picture.
One of the first steps in a digital transformation process is data consolidation. But if you’re a large company with a lot of departments that have a certain amount of autonomy, getting that single source of truth can be tricky.
And if your company has just gone through a merger or acquisition, the severity of the problem is multiplied by at least two.
Volume of data multiplies
If you're a company that buys another company which has a totally different systems landscape, moving forward with digital transformation involves aggregating data from both organizations and seeing what assets conflict, are complementary, or are redundant.
How do you handle customer lists? How can you combine DevOps information located in at least two different systems? How do you define effective workflows when rules about who has access to what data are completely different between the two companies?
Redundant data and tools
Inevitably the “marriage” of two companies will result in discovering redundant tools and processes. But unlike a real marriage, where each partner can maintain a separate bank account and take a Yours, Mine, and Ours approach to personal possessions, a newly combined company has to prune away redundancies and provide full transparency into what each group has and does.
So how can you move forward with a digital transformation plan? How do you get all your data into a form you can use? Data warehousing is an important next step.
Data warehousing is a form of data integration that “cleans”, categorizes, and formats your organization’s data. A data warehouse is a digital place into which data from several sources can flow. Different types of data are “normalized” into a common form.
Imagine the data is translated into the same language and organized into a digital library according to subject, so bits of formerly disparate data can be related to each other.
By providing a single source of truth, making data management simpler, data warehousing allows company leadership to see patterns, correlations, and insights that lead to informed business decisions.
Data that used to be located in dozens of disparate silos is aggregated into a single location. Business leaders can make data-driven decisions informed by analysis of all the relevant data, rather than just the anecdotal bits and pieces they’ve been able to scrape together.
Effective execution of a data warehousing initiative enables companies to assimilate all their data into a larger narrative. Decisions regarding technology and process workflows become business decisions with a demonstrable impact on the organization’s goals.
Implementing a digital transformation plan after a merger or acquisition somewhat resembles digital transformation during business as usual, only with exponentially more data and potential complications. But the basic principles of an effective gameplan are the same.
Get the data warehousing team involved as early as possible
As soon as the ink is dry on the contracts, incorporate the team executing digital transformation initiatives into the merger/acquisition process. If the stakeholders within each organization can share information and access to company assets (assuming all of those stakeholders are sticking around, of course), the data warehousing process can begin, and business leaders can form a rough timeline for merging operations into a single corporate entity.
Set clear goals for the data warehouse
Once stakeholders can communicate, specific goals and outcomes need to be defined for the data warehouse. What questions need to be answered? In what format should answers arrive? What are the quantifiable business outcomes you’re looking for by using this data?
It’s neither possible nor desirable to have all your data in one place, so you have to implement clear criteria and parameters for what data or types of data need to be aggregated, cleaned up, and analyzed.
Identify interoperable vs redundant data or software
When you have a more complete view of what each company is bringing to the table, you’ll discover that some tools, processes, and data sets have a lot of crossover. The overlap may prove beneficial, filling pre-existing gaps. There may be software in each company’s portfolio that is easily interoperable.
Perhaps more often, each company is using different software and/or a completely different workflow for the same use case, and collects and stores data in completely different formats. This disconnect has to be remedied for the company to operate as a single, organic whole.
Effective data warehousing can help IT organizations identify what data is related. Software, data format, and process incompatibilities can be resolved, and when merging business elements are mutually compatible, the company can exploit any new opportunities that present themselves.
Based on the defined goals of the data warehousing initiative, business and IT leadership should implement standards for how data is stored, processed, and acted upon.
Often, each company in a merger or acquisition will have specific strengths and weaknesses. One organization might have efficient, secure DevOps workflows, while the other handles customer financial data according to the strictest regulatory compliance standards.
Figure out which company’s standards are the best fit for your digital transformation strategy. A well conceived data warehousing initiative can give an IT organization a blueprint for what workflows, tools, and other data sets can be expanded to the entire organization.
The beginning of the merger process is a great time to improve past processes by reforming guidelines and standardizing data handling.
Standardize processes and applications
When departments from two different companies combine, there are bound to be snags and disruptions when implementing a new way of doing things. You’ll need to collaborate with each team to anticipate friction points and navigate through them. With the insights gained from having your data in one place, a data warehouse can reveal potential issues before they escalate into crises.
It’ll be a painful process, but implementing tools and processes that can be shared between different parts of the organization will enable more effective cross-department collaboration and help you discover what works and what doesn’t. Each team should be working toward not only its own objectives, but the goals of the entire company.
In addition to defining goals for what the data warehouse is meant to accomplish in your digital transformation initiative, think about how the warehouse itself fits into your environment.
On-prem or Cloud?
Should it be on-premises software installed on your company servers, or should it be located in the cloud? Depending on your company’s security posture, you may want to place the data warehouse within your company’s technology infrastructure. On the other hand, small organizations may opt for a cloud or hybrid cloud approach.
Do you have the internal resources you need?
While many large enterprises want everything done in-house, smaller organizations going through a merger or acquisition sometimes need the expertise of a managed IT firm adept at implementing digital transformation initiatives. Even larger organizations sometimes need an outside eye to see what their own IT team can’t.
Digital transformation is an ongoing process. You can’t just set it and forget it. How you handle your data requires constant adjustment to changes within your organization, as well as the industry. Comprehensive visibility of data across your organization,and the ability to recognize emerging patterns, will help you more efficiently negotiate the ever-changing digital transformation landscape.
At Vudu, we are technology wizards who want to bring IT magic to your business and achieve supernatural results. Are you looking for ways to use data to power your business strategy? Tell us more about your goals.