10 signs your company needs a data strategy

An increasing number of organisations now recognise data as a strategic asset. Like any asset, once harnessed it has the potential to yield benefits, be it enhanced customer value, operational efficiencies or competitive advantage.

Although every data strategy is a unique affair created to enable specific business objectives, there is a common blueprint. A plan and roadmap to improve all the ways your organisation captures, ingests, creates, acquires, links, manages, shares, and analyses data.

However agreeing what a data strategy is, is not the hard part. The toughest ask is often acknowledging one is needed at all. Consequently, many data leaders find making the case for change is their first and most important challenge.

This is not surprising, given data transformation often requires significant change involving not only a company’s operations, technology, and ways of working, but more often than not its culture. Successful data transformation means playing a long and challenging game.

So where do you begin? Well, like any major problem the first trick is to identify the symptoms to allow a rational and clear diagnosis. These symptoms must be compelling enough to ensure your business accepts things need to change.

At Starcount, we help data leaders build the case for their data strategies, and over the years we’ve seen a host of common signs that one is needed. Here are 10 of them.

1. You are making your customers’ lives difficult

This is probably the most compelling evidence you have a data problem and certainly the one your leadership team and shareholders will take most notice of. The customer impact of a data problem can manifest itself in many ways, such as: increasingly poor marketing results, inability to deliver products and services to meet customer expectations, shopping cart abandonment, declining loyalty, or even outright complaints.

A data strategy will ensure you treat your customers well, by developing a clear picture of their needs and how to serve them.

2. You don’t know the true value of your data

Many companies struggle with this critical question. Whether you’re looking to monetise or utilise it, ultimately the value of your data comes from the opportunities it can unlock, whether measured in terms of additional customer value, as a means to improve operational costs, are even as a commodity in its own right.

3. You are forever reinventing the wheel

A benefit of ensuring you have well managed, linked, and usable data, across the enterprise, is that proposition development will become that much easier. Where this isn’t the case, organisations often complain that products and services are constantly built from scratch, used once, then built again.

A data strategy will help you centralise data initiatives and avoid such inefficiencies.

4. You have poor quality data and limited access

Many organisations are unable to trust their data. Provenance or currency is often unclear and multiple versions of the truth (‘false truths’) frustrate decision making. This is often exacerbated by difficulty accessing the data, due to insufficient tools, legacy technology, and poorly crafted reporting mechanisms.

A data strategy will help assure data quality and standards, and the optimal tools to access it.

5. You find it difficult to link your data to other sources

Data interoperability is a key feature of the modern data environment, and often considered a precondition of playing in big data. If your database operates in a silo, unable to be enriched by 3rd party data, or link to new sources, this will limit the value it can create.

Your data strategy will allow you to understand your data within the wider ecosystem in which it operates and identify strategic partnerships and relationships necessary to ensure it meets its full potential.

6. You are unable to take advantage of new forms of data

Related to the above point, you may find that your existing data infrastructure prevents ingestion, connection, collection, or management of a variety of new data sources. For example, technology is generating petabytes of sensor data, which cannot be harnessed using traditional databases.

Your data strategy will focus on the exact infrastructure needed now and in the future.

7. You don’t know who ‘owns’ the data – or the risk

In many companies data is distributed, without a clear owner. This can frustrate operational decision making, and a lack of ownership belittles the central importance of data in achieving your business priorities.

A data strategy will allocate ownership, which is more often that not becoming the remit of newly appointed Chief Data Officers.

8. You can’t run advanced analytics

If data is of poor quality and difficult to access, conducting accurate and dependable data analysis will be challenging. As data proliferates the requirement for insight generation through machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other advanced techniques is becoming more pressing. The inability to engage in these techniques means opportunities could go uncovered.

A good data strategy will ensure your data is analytically-ready, not just for the questions you need answered today, but for those you don’t yet know you need answered.

9. You are unable to cope with a data breach

The threat of attack from hackers bent on stealing personal data is ever present, and quite rightly feared by most organisations. After all, a serious breach can have a detrimental impact on your customers, reputation, and bottom-line.

A strong data strategy will ensure you put in place the right security measures, so that nefarious agents are unable to exploit your asset against your will.

10. You don’t have a data-driven culture

A healthy culture will balance instinct and data in its decision making. An unhealthy one will rely too heavily on  experience, and either dismiss or ignore the importance of available data points.

Organisational engagement and culture must always be central to a data strategy. No matter your plan, culture will make or break your plan.

James Miller is Client Director at Starcount. 

Starcount has helped numerous organisations plan for and implement strong and successful data transformation programmes. We can help you make the case for a data strategy. To hear more, get in touch.

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