Landscape Analysis of Data Assets and Data Processes

In the past 6 months we’ve seen an explosion in the number of people asking us to conduct Landscape Analysis on their data assets and data processes. If you’ve heard people mention Landscape Analysis but have never really been sure what they are, Rob Jones, Head of Delivery at Qbase has compiled this handy guide for you.

 

What is a landscape analysis?
Simply put, it is the cataloguing and measurement of all the data in your company or organisation.

Why would I need a landscape analysis?
If you are migrating to a new CRM, ERP or any back-office database it is crucial you have a handle on the data and processes that already exists in your organisation. It means you can properly specify your new solution to accommodate existing data assets and core processes. And knowing the data you currently run your business upon means you can accurately plan how you will move existing data and processes into your new solution.

You may also want to conduct a landscape analysis if you are considering deploying a data aggregation solution of some kind. So a data warehouse, single customer view, data mart, data marketing platform or master data management platform. It will ensure you have catalogue of all the sources of data that would be needed for, or affected by your final solution.

Specifically, what does a landscape analysis contain?
There are a number of stages involved in any landscape analysis. The first of these is discovery.

A landscape analysis by its very nature is a process by which you will identify and catalogue all data stores. Using interviews, questionnaires, process maps and IT audits, the first job is to identify all of these data stores and document them as part of a high level schema. Remember, you may have a number of un-registered data stores such as spreadsheets or databases held by external suppliers. Consider holding a data amnesty to identify these.

At this stage you only need to know a basic understanding of the relationships between different data stores. You will get more detail later.

We now need to know what data exists in each data store. This is called profiling and it’s a relatively simple task given the right tools. The objective is to identify the format, quantity, age, range and general health of your data. It’s also an opportunity for you to identify what is core data, and what is superfluous, probably machine generated data, that you wouldn’t need in any migration or aggregation project.

The next stage is lower level schema analysis of each data store. The aim is to create Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs) within each store. Again, there are tools that can help you reverse engineer ERDs from the core database tables.

We’re now in a position to understand the functions and processes inherent in your data stores. If you have access to data dictionaries, use them to identify the function of tables, entities and processes and start to categorise them into useful pots of data. For example, people, places, transactions, communications and so forth.

Your next job is to create a measure of data completeness and quality. Referring back to the profiling data and combining this with your new functional understanding, your role is to identify the expected content and identify where the gaps and problems are. For example, for data on a person, does the gender flag match the suffix or title? You should also look to identify any areas of duplication in the data. You should document your results and prepare them as a digestible report. This will become essential as part of your migration or aggregation project as you will need to fix any issues you have identified. At Qbase we call these DQRs (Data Quality Rules), but we’ll save that for another time.

Finally you need to pull together all of the above into a high level ERD. This is where you can demonstrate actual relationships and processes between data stores. It will give you a measure on the totality of the data in question, and if you have the capability, you should perform inter-store deduplication to further refine these measures.

What skills do I need for a Landscape Analysis?
You will need people with a number of very specific skills. ETL skills are essential to pull all the data into a working environment for subsequent analysis. Data Architect skills are needed for the identification and understanding of ERDs. Analysts are needed for the low-level data analysis. Reporting and presentation skills are required for the end report. Plus you’ll need people with good interpersonal skills at every stage. A landscape analysis isn’t just about the data. It’s about the people who manage and maintain that data and the people who have a stake in the data. Working with these people is essential for an effective landscape analysis.

Which individuals will benefit from a Landscape Analysis?
Anyone involved in scoping your final solution will benefit. Specifically this can include Programme and Project Managers, Solutions Architects, Project Sponsors, Developers and of course the department for which your solution will ultimately benefit. And don’t forget, this is essential viewing for any potential suppliers as it will help them to quantify and understand your requirement better and be able to provide a more accurate solution and price for the work.

When should I commission a Landscape Analysis?
It’s common sense, but you should do one before any decision has been made about technology, solutions or suppliers. It is at its heart a briefing document. It should form part of your business case for change and inform those people you trust with scoping a solution. All too often at Qbase we’ve been commissioned to create Landscape Analysis after key decisions on technology and suppliers have already taken place. It can mean some findings from the analysis are wasted and clients are then looking for “work-arounds” to accommodate these findings in a solution that may not have been the best one to choose given all the information.

The lesson is don’t get seduced by shiny new platforms or slick suppliers until you are in possession of all the facts!

If you are looking for a Landscape Analysis for your business then contact Rob Jones now and he will be happy to take you through what Qbase can offer.

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