Seeing is Believing: Data management and visualization for large scale security programs
Decisions require data. Elections are won or lost, vaccines are delivered across the globe, supply chains are made more sustainable, projects are completed, problems are solved — all based on the availability and understanding of data. And ensuring the security of data for companies, governments, and consumers alike is critical. As managers of large-scale technology and security programs, it’s critical that we are able to access and make sense of the relevant data to achieve this.
At Salesforce, we manage some of the largest security programs in the industry; programs that consist of hundreds of internal, and thousands of external, stakeholders. The amount of data these programs produce is astronomical and not easily digestible by anyone other than a few subject matter experts. This is where real-time analytics and a single source of truth can help.
Is Your Data Answering the Right Questions?
Whether your stakeholders are responsible, accountable, consulted, or merely informed, your single source of information should reliably answer the critical questions at the appropriate granularity for each audience member: Where have we been? Where are we? And where are we going? Your data should be:
A Source of Truth
Signal degradation — a reduction of data quality — occurs not only in networking but also in program management. As time passes or communications get further from the original source they naturally become less precise. Agreeing upon, and relying on, a single source of truth (e.g. a dashboard) for all parties allows for confident collaboration, especially when all other information seems conflicting or incomplete.
A Historical Record
Not only do signals degrade but people forget even recent history. A successful data management program should include functional “snapshots” of data on a recurring basis, allowing for all historical work to be recorded, accessible, and visualized.
When all data is present and stakeholders are confident in its accuracy, they can self-service. Frequently, we see SMEs become indispensable to a project due to their historical and corporate knowledge. They know why things are the way they are and how to navigate the current complexities. Through no fault of their own, these individuals create a single point of success or failure for the program, often becoming susceptible to burnout. The more all stakeholders can self-serve from dashboards or similar data tools to answer their questions, the more resilient a program will be.
In today's work-from-anywhere culture, async data availability and accuracy are table stakes. Real-time project dashboards reduce lag since individuals don’t need to wait for a meeting, an email response, or a passing conversation in the hallway.
So, how do you achieve all of these things in order to make work more efficiently and drive smarter decision making? A CRM Analytics dashboard can serve as a north star in program management. Native to the Salesforce platform, CRM Analytics can help you automate, scale, and visualize your data, ensure governance, and get the right information into the right hands in real time.
What it Looks Like in Real Life
At Salesforce, we are continually developing and improving our infrastructure and services. One example is our application migration program, which facilitates the modernization of infrastructure by migrating customer organizations (instances of Salesforce) from legacy to modern environments. Such large programs can easily become unwieldy because they include numerous stakeholders from numerous teams: legal, contracts, infrastructure, support… the list goes on. While standing up this migration program, we used the following process to create and adopt a program management dashboard.
- Stakeholder Alignment: There is a fine line between clarity and confusion. It is tightly coupled to the questions a stakeholder needs answered. When there is too much data, the truth can be lost in the noise. Too little data, the dependency goes unresolved. Without stakeholder alignment and buy-in, the end product will simply be a sunk cost. To achieve stakeholder clarity and alignment it helps to ask: What is the minimum amount of information that will provide the visibility all stakeholders need to feel confident in tracking the current state?
- Data Collecting: How is this data going to be collected? At Salesforce we use, you guessed it, a Salesforce org to track work items and statuses. Perhaps your organization has various sources of data they want to combine and pull into one dataset to track all this work. Data management and extract, transform, load (ETL) tools included in CRM analytics can assist with more complex data flows.
- Develop Dashboards: For our dashboards, we built out the dataflows and dashboard highlighting timelines, work backlog, planned vs. actual work, holds, blockers, and unique work types. Our minimally viable product (MVP) was surprisingly quick to build; one developer was able to complete it in a matter of days, not weeks, or months.
- Continually Improve: The project manager should continually update and improve the dashboard as time goes on and previous decisions are overcome by events. Start by targeting a minimally viable product. A simple, and even imperfect, first draft allows stakeholders to see and appreciate the value added from the dashboard as the project gains momentum.
Where the ordinary is absent we shouldn’t expect to find the extraordinary. An extraordinary dashboard is simply the sum of the seemingly mundane and tedious data elements behind the scenes. Taking the time to do things accurately will reap future rewards as managers will spend less time “communicating up,” less time reporting weekly status, and less time correcting the narrative. Learn how to use CRM analytics to solve your analytics and program management challenges.