[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]
Recently, I was at the local NCC-AIIM Chapter meeting. Russ Stalters was visiting from Texas and shared the story about how he created a new, 200+ person, data management team for the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. A separate organizational entity from BP, the organization was stood up in 90 days from vision to operation. It was an impressive tale involving massive amounts of information being absorbed and managed in a highly visible environment.
As Russ spoke, it became clear that two of the key lessons were around agile processes and content analytics. It generated some great discussion that took us well past the scheduled time. I wanted to take some time to share some of the highlights.
Agile Means Progress
One of the lessons that Russ pushed hard was the need to be agile. For his effort, they utilized Scrum, breaking the effort into 2-week sprints. At the end of each sprint they had something to show. Every sprint created additional value for the client, in his case, the rest of the organization.
Did it work? The short answer is yes. When agile was dropped after his departure, people missed it. That brings up a core lesson, agile works best when the entire organization embraces it. It cannot be dependent upon a single champion. It begins at the leadership and moves on down. Without that commitment it is too easy to lapse into pseudo-agile process that carry agile labels but leverage more traditional, heavyweight, processes.
Moving to Agile
The conversation quickly turned into the challenges of implementing agile in the Federal Government. Being a DC chapter of AIIM, there is always a lot of Federal experience in the room. I shared my experiences here at TeraThink, which has shown you can’t just drop a traditional waterfall executing team into an agile methodology and expect things to work. There needs to be commitment and patience from the top, proper training, and often some agile coaching.
This is how Russ approached implementing agile. trained everybody and had several key people, including himself, on the team that had practical experience.
Analytics Against Structure
One of the capabilities that Russ discussed was some robust analytics derived from his content. He correctly pointed out that you can’t simply devise a few canned queries of a full-text engine and call it content analytics. It doesn’t matter what the vendors say. You can use those results to look backwards but it doesn’t help you to look forwards.
Predictive analytics is the key. You want to be able to forecast what is going to happen so you can make more informed decisions. To generate predictive analytics, you have to extract information from its source and place it into a more defined structure. From there you can begin to extrapolate what will happen next based upon what has happened previously. Mix in some well-designed visualizations and you can start creating dashboards that provide answers and advice.
Of course, it isn’t that easy. You have to identify what sources of information have the answers. That involves a lot of analysis of all your existing data sources to determine the quality and consistency of information. It isn’t easy, but if you find people with the right analytical bent you can start to find the answers.
Once Again, A Great Meeting
I really enjoy these monthly events. The presentations often offer more than a few nuggets of insight. Given my tenure in the industry, that is no small thing. In addition, chatting with others facing the same challenges is always beneficial.
As for the lessons from the January meeting, it was good to hear that the commercial space is moving in the same direction we’ve been pushing our Federal clients. The overall task is daunting but if you can capture your information, analyze what has happened in the past, and then project out towards the future, you can really turn your mass of content into value-producing assets.
If you’d like to learn about how TeraThink can help you, reach out. Even if you just need someone to map out what needs to be done, we can help. No matter the distance to travel, taking things one step at a time, or one sprint at a time, will get you there before you know it.