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How to Handle Refactoring in a Self-Service Analytics World

Scott Hietpas Scott Hietpas  |  
Sep 10, 2019
 
In this blog series, Scott Hietpas, a Principal Consultant with Skyline Technologies’ data team, and Matt Pluster, Data Analytics and Data Platform Team Director, explore the advantages and disadvantages of different analytics management approaches. For a full overview on this topic, check out the full IT-Managed vs Self-Service Analytics Webinar.
 
We talked about how one of the downsides of Self-Service can be a lot of duplication or redundancies. If we allow users to start creating their own content off our data warehouse or our data lake, we don't always have a good sense of everything that's out there. It might not just be Power BI reports that we can inventory and monitor; there might be Excel spreadsheets and any number of other content that's accessing those data sources.
 

Backward Compatibility

Generally, our goal is to remain backward-compatible and avoid breaking changes whenever possible. But inevitably, if we decide we need to make some sort of backward-breaking change to a data model for greater clarity or enhanced functionality, then there aren't many great tools to manage the impact to Self-Service content. Again, that’s because not all that content is managed.
 
However, we’re doing a few things internally to handle that transition, and we’ve seen some change management steps that have helped many of our client partners.
 

Creating and Encouraging Community Investment

In our previous blog, we talked about having a Community of Excellence portal where all your Self-Service content creators can share ideas and get information. Whether it’s a site, Microsoft Teams, or another tool to effectively share information, it’s a great place to communicate breaking changes. All your content creators can subscribe to that location to be notified of new changes.
 

Effective Change Documentation

Effectively communicating those changes requires good documentation. Any time you have a potential impact to existing content, make sure you're documenting and communicating that release. It’s important to give people an opportunity to address any impacts that might be an outcome of that change.
 

Creating a Positive Perception

The communication side is certainly a key part of change management, but another one is perception. We talked about one of the disadvantages of IT-Managed Analytics being how people have a perception that their needs and priorities aren’t being met by IT. When it comes to refactoring in Self-Service, it’s very important to make sure people see the value of those changes. Keep in mind that you’re not just communicating “Here's what's breaking”, but you’re really making sure people understand the value of the change. Ideally, you don't take any breaking changes lightly. It's not something you want to do too often.
 

Recognizing the Value of Self-Service Content on the Enterprise Level

Another thing to keep in mind about refactoring, or ensuring open communication with your Self-Service stakeholders, is that we often see the initial Self-Service foray serving as an independent rapid prototyping of some analytic capabilities that might be needed across the enterprise. Self-Service in a combined IT-Managed and Self-Service world delivers a lot of innovation.
 
The change management process can provide a good opportunity to understand the breadth of Self-Service content developed and potentially review for inclusion in certified content. Their work can be used as a template and converted into an enterprise data model that can be used by the rest of the organization. Other Self-Service content may have been less valuable and may be removed rather than refactored. IT should plan to dedicate some time to address unknown impacts and work with Self-Service users to retain valuable analytic capabilities following the impact. 
 
Self-Service analytics can provide significant value, even on an enterprise level. It's a foundational piece that can be utilized to grow capabilities. That’s why it’s even more important to have a good refactoring process to maintain that value for your organization.
 
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