Baisano Labs

No more ad-hoc requests! The journey from data service to data product organizations

Data Services or Data Products? The Dilemma that shouldn’t be

Data teams represent an organizational transformation for most companies, some of which hire data scientists, data engineers, and machine learning engineers. But which problems do data folk solve? Most of them take care of urgent business requests, all day, every day. Do they work with engineering? Do they focus on R&D until they build something truly valuable? If this is you (or your team), are you doomed? Is there a way out?

These are common questions for companies of all sizes, but there is embarrassingly little consensus on what to do about them. This typically forces data teams to react to incoming ad-hoc requests. No roadmap, no direction: just SQL queries.

Luckily, there is a way to turn traditional data service teams into an integral part of your business, while adding value with every single contribution. It implies a shift toward becoming a data product team, listening to internal and external customers, and building tools that increase operational efficiency and reduce the volume of ad-hoc requests.

Data Services

Under the data services paradigm (a model inherited from Business Intelligence), data folk create a backlog of equally important and seemingly urgent business requests. These are usually tackled on a first-in-first-out basis.

Every single workday, the role of the data service team is to gather data, clean it, and deliver actionable insights to the business (this is easier said than done).

This approach has a few advantages:

Despite these advantages, the data services approach falls short in the following ways:

Fortunately, there’s a way to reap the benefits of this approach while reducing the downside of your organizational knowledge.

A few strategies to build a Data Products Team

In short, you need to set up an environment where your data team can build products that add value to your business. They shouldn’t be treated as a group of mercenaries standing by to fulfill data requests coming from every side of your organization.

Your data team needs the space to build tools to do the following:

Outlook: How to get there?

Every organization is a different beast: There are no magic recipes for success. But every organization needs high-quality data delivered to their stakeholders. Data product teams that work closely with business and product stakeholders have good chances of adding value to the business, answer critical business questions while building key internal products.