Some of you may be rolling your eyes at the question “What’s a data strategy”? In this case, you probably have already implemented one at your organization. Kudos to you because according to research from Dataversity, you are one of only 11% of organizations that have. The truth of the matter is simple, even though people talk about data these days, there is a fundamental problem behind the talk: people just don’t know how to manage it. That causes a big problem because while organizations are trying to figure it out, they are taking in data like the Titanic took in water! The key to tackling any big problem, like a sinking ship, is to have the right approach, or strategy. This is where a data strategy comes in, cape and all. According to Information Management, a proper data strategy “reflects all the ways you capture, store, manage and use information.”
Unfortunately, most organizations still use a reactive, undisiplined approach to managing data. According to Tony Fisher’s Data Governance Maturity Model, 35% of organizations manage data with reactive, IT-driven projects usually carried out by an individual; duplicate, inconsistent data; inability to adapt to business changes; executives unaware of the cost of poor data; no standards for cleaning or sharing data. This brings us back to our reference to the sinking ship. Without some sort of rhyme and reason to your data, an organization will lose its competitive edge overnight. If data is used and managed the right way it can give you invaluable business intelligence, forecast future opportunities and challenges, and give you a full picture of your operations. Handled improperly, data can cause operational inefficiency, system errors, failed government audits, and more.
So if you are part of the 62% of organizations in the United States that have yet to invest in any sort of solution to help address the big data challenge (research from Gartner), here are some tips on where to start.
First things first, you NEED to make sure everyone is informed and then get them on board.
One of the major problems with organizations that don’t have a data strategy and aren’t planning on investing in data is that their executives are unaware or misinformed. Set up training on big data. Tackle it from both the business side and the technical side. Come prepared with your research. Once everyone is substantially informed, come up with a strategy that works best for your organization and its goals.
Then follow the Information Management definition to a T. Go through the various steps to managing data and make sure policies, technologies, and people are put in place to ensure you are fully optimized from a data perspective.
Capturing Your Data
- What data does your organization capture on a daily basis?
- Is everything captured necessary? Useful?
- Have your employees had sufficient training with the software they use to capture data?
Storing Your Data
- What data needs to be stored and what can be discarded?
- Where can I store my data without slowing my systems down?
- Can I easily retrieve stored data?
- Does my data storage comply with regulations?
Managing Your Data
- How do I keep track of all my data?
- How can I fix data errors?
- How can I manage the quality of my data?
- How do I monitor more than one system at the same time?
Using Your Data
- What does my data tell me about my customers?
- Where can I make improvements to my organization (using information gathered)?
- How well is our organization functioning?
- Can I easily interpret my data?
- Can I visualize the data I have collected?
Once you have established what you want to get from your data you need to find the technology that will help you answer the above questions. That means an evaluation of your current systems and the new solutions that are on the market. For example, a CRM solution like Salesforce.com helps you to collect customer data and use it to make intelligent business decisions. A data warehouse such as the one offered by Teradata will store collected data for you without burdening your systems. You can manage your data easily, roll back mistakes, find errors, and oversee system usage by using a data tracking software like Observato. And you can use your data to your organization’s benefit with a BI solutions like IBM’s analytics. Then you just need to hire the right people to manage your solutions and your data and voila, you have implemented an effective data strategy.
Looking to educate your organization about data strategies and more? Here are a few good references.
“There is More to Data Management Than You Might Think” – Realise Data Systems
“How To Develop A Big Data Strategy To Outperform Your Competitors” – Big Data Startups
“Creating an Enterprise Data Strategy: Managing Data as a Corporate Asset” – Dataversity (figure courtesy of this article)