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Mention data to some executives and you’ll get a range of reactions, ranging from evangelical to utterly perplexed. The latter group might know data is important to their business and understand that using it correctly can bring significant wins, but there is often considerable confusion over how to best implement it. Fret no more, as here are the four pillars you need to launch a successful data strategy.
First look around your organisation and assess existing strengths and weaknesses. Do your staff understand the power and value of data? You don’t necessarily have to run out and employ a team of experts, instead audit existing skills. If somebody is a whizz with an Excel spreadsheet, chances are you can train them up to become more data literate.
Next take a step back and look at the structure of your organisation. Is there a divide between your IT department and your business people? If so, that needs rectifying. To get the most out of your data, everyone needs to work together. Rather than make it the sole preserve of techies, a joined up approach will spread the responsibility and offer the best chance of creating a successful data culture.
One of the quickest wins is in the optimisation of existing business processes. One company we worked with wanted to create a more efficient system for posting journals in their finance system. At the time they had a 20 step process for this seemingly straightforward procedure; laboriously copying information into Excel, running four different reports, then ticking off a long paper checklist before finally posting. Through automation we were able to reduce that process down to two or three steps, while still allowing for all important checks to take place.
Ensure automation is built into your data systems. It will transform the working lives of even the most data-phobic employees, providing alerts on anything from fluctuations in sales to customer complaints. Rather than finding out about this in the annual report or having to dig through the data for answers, a simple warning symbol in your regular reporting will alert you to potential problems before they cause too much damage.
While it’s important to have everyone on board, it is crucial to have trusted individuals overseeing data in areas such as customer and product information. You need people who can own that data and be responsible for it. Ensure that they have clear strategies around managing data quality and data governance. This stuff is as important to growing your business as your staff and product – treat it with the same care and you’ll reap the rewards.
Once you have thought through all areas of your strategy, only then should you commit to spending money on the necessary tech. We often meet companies who have muddled through by bolting on extra systems here and there. What they should have done is to step back and ask whether it might be simpler and more efficient to just start from scratch? Often building on a legacy system is a false economy, while investing in the correct, modern system for your needs will save you time and money.
If you take just one thing away from this, it’s that upfront thinking is absolutely crucial. We see so many companies who have taken bad advice and invested in a pricey data lake or warehouse that ultimately didn’t serve their needs. They then have to start over, or are forced to work with compromised systems. Never overlook the importance of starting with a defined data strategy, it is one of the most important business decisions you will ever make.
What better way to kick of you data strategy that a FREE 90 minute Data Strategy workshop tailored to your business? Book your call with one of our data gurus now to understand how data can help you to achieve your goals: