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Do I need a Data Strategy?

James Boother

Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg

Image: © Sebastiaan ter Burg

Time to reflect

We are now 50 days into enforced lockdown imposed by the UK Government in response to the COVID-19 threat. We have gone through the initial fear and uncertainty associated to the change. Initially I thought that this maybe a few weeks or a month, but as time has progressed it has become more apparent that there will be a long slow change back to more normal social interaction and therefore working life. 

The change has been mixed, and I've noticed that time has become more structured, with what would have been a five or ten minute chat in the kitchen or between desks turning into 30-minute Teams meetings. This has also meant that I've had more contemplation time (rather than the usual frenzy of an open-plan office) and spent less time commuting (it's only a few steps to my home-office rather than 45 minutes' driving). I've noticed that customers are now over the initial shock of trying to get their office-based workforce productive at home and now, like me, they have more time to think and plan. This makes it a great time to consider whether or not you need a Data Strategy.

What is a Data Strategy?

Let's start with the definition: Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. Well, we are certainly living in times of uncertainty, and our need to create stability and control has never been more acute. Whether your business is thriving or struggling since the changes to our way of life and our economy it is essential for you to make sure that the resources you have at your disposal are providing the maximum value. The best way to achieve this is by having a clear and cohesive plan that you can measure and adapt. 

Do I need a Data Strategy?

Bernard Marr says that a Data Strategy can help a business in three ways: "decision making, operations and monetization". Focusing on these three areas will allow you, in the short term, to beat your competitors and ultimately create your own market where there are few or no competitors, so the benefits of a clear and well thought through Data Strategy are well worth the time you invest. Be prepared to continue investing in your strategy; businesses are dynamic and the needs of a business and the environment the business operates in change over time. It is therefore important to monitor and evolve your strategy to ensure that it continues to deliver the business objectives. 

What can go wrong with a Data Strategy?

Too often I've seen a Data Strategy that is focused on technology - this is not the place to start. Going back to the definition, a strategy is a high level plan to achieve a goal. It is therefore important that when defining a Data Strategy, one starts with the goals.

"How do I define the Goals?" I hear you ask. Well, that is where it's important to work with the business leadership team, they will have defined goals for the business and they must be these goals that the Data Strategy is designed to deliver against. Aligning to the business goals is the only way to measure the success of the Data Strategy, and this should be reviewed immediately that any of the business goals change. 

What should I consider when creating a Data Strategy?

When we are defining a Data Strategy we focus on collecting data from five key pillars:

  • Business Strategy
  • People & Culture
  • Operations and Process
  • Data
  • Technology and platform

By working with the business leadership to answer structured questions in these areas we are able to provide a clear and coherent plan for the use of data within the business helping them achieve the objectives that the leadership are pursuing. This approach gives the vision and roadmap to provide the leadership team confidence that the work being done will deliver tangible business value. The delivery team have the space and time to build the platforms needed. The political support is given to drive the cultural and process change required to ensure that the new methods and systems are adopted by the users.

I've created my Data Strategy, am I done?

Creating the Data Strategy is only the first step. Ensure that you set up regular review points to ensure that the strategy is being executed and that it still aligns to the business objectives. The adoption of the solutions created is where the value is realised and it is only valuable if the solutions align to the business objectives.

Further resources

If this post has made you reflect on your Data Strategy, you may find the following resources help you along the way to creating or revising yours. 

We offer a free service to help you assess the data maturity of your business, this can help you decide where you need to focus energy and resource. Discover more about our data maturity assessment.


How advanced is your business at managing data? 

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