A data strategy can address many concerns and processes in an organisation. It can include preferences for cloud over on-premise, software functionality, data storage practices, glossaries and data dictionaries. It can be as detailed or as summarised as necessary.
But if it’s not documented and written down, then no one can follow it.
Once written down, then everyone needs to know about it. It’s no good there being standards and practices about the storage or input of data, or the definition of objects and fields, if the relevant staff are not aware of them.
Data strategy is everyone’s responsibility, from those inputting data to source systems, DBAs maintaining databases, managers procuring software, and BI developers creating reports. Everyone should be aware of how they contribute to efficient data practices and how they can affect the strategy’s success. They should know the benefits of a successful strategy too.
Don’t let it stagnate – it is never finished. Once the consultants have left or the project manager has ticked off the last deliverable, the strategy needs to be maintained. Re-visit it quarterly to make sure it is still applicable and being followed, or more often if necessary.
There will be new systems and processes in the business over time – plan how to fit them in to the strategy from the outset. Create an application on-boarding process for the data that will be generated from new systems.
There will also be data that does not fit your definitions or that needs special handling. Plan how to handle exceptions early on, who to go to for final decisions on these oddities.
Having a group of disparate stakeholders from the business, from different levels of seniority as well as different departments and skills, will help capture all use-cases for data and lead to a well-rounded strategy.
This group should continue to meet after the project’s initial completion, with a senior leader who has the power to enforce decisions across the business, to ensure that change and feedback is acted upon.
Empower these stakeholders to drive the process and there should be more buy-in from their peers.
Data needs to provide insight, not just exist for its own reasons. Just because a system can churn out 100s of reports, should these be what people are taking notice of? IT are happy to supply lots of data, but insight can be harder to obtain.
Providing lots of data in order to look busy is inefficient and counter-productive. Spending the time to identify the actual metrics needed to drive the business, then working out how to supply them, will be far more beneficial in the long run.
Don’t make it too difficult to implement. The strategy needs to account for realities in your organisation. Responsibilities should not be too onerous on already busy staff as processes will be ignored and the benefits will soon lapse.
Take into account statutory requirements and critical elements first, then build out the strategy as far as is required and can reasonably be implemented by your staff.
Map your core processes and see how data can inform decisions about them. The strategy will make most impact where there is most motivation and benefits to be reaped.
Identifying the core processes that earn revenue or create profit, the key steps in manufacturing, care reviews or student housing management. Map them and prioritise them. Then you can see where the biggest needs are and how your organisation can get the best out of a strategy.
Identify good practice that already exists in the business as it could be a simple process to roll that out to other areas. A new data strategy does not have to start with a clean piece of paper.
Comparing current practice with what the ideal future picture looks like will give you a good impression of how much work will be involved and what is reasonable to achieve.
Make sure the through-line from data to actions to goals, is robust and proven via experience and agreement in the steering group. The data strategy should be about streamlining data production as much as codifying and classifying what is being produced.
Spending time ensuring the data you’ll be producing really does drive the business is the key job for the project group.
DSCallards offers a wealth of services aimed at improving data strategy and data governance in organisations, and we have proven the benefits of investing in the data-health of many businesses.
Come and talk to us to discover how we can introduce, design and help implement a data strategy with you.