Data matters to every business. So it follows that every business needs a data strategy.
As a strategic business and technology advisor, not only have I written the book on data strategy (literally), I’ve helped many of the world's most successful organizations create one. In this article, I share my pearls of wisdom on how to create a winning data strategy – i.e., a strategy for using data in the best way for your business.
So what should you include in your data strategy? When I work with a company to develop its data strategy, we look at the following seven areas:
A good data strategy shouldn’t be created in isolation; it must be driven by your overall business strategy. Therefore, the first step in any data strategy is to consider your organization's strategic priorities and key business questions. Only then can you identify how you might use data to help you deliver those priorities and answer your business questions.
The data uses and priorities that you identify in this phase are your use cases. To ensure your data strategy is focused and achievable, I’d stick to no more than 3–5 data use cases.
Also known as quick wins! Because the big strategic data priorities can take some time to implement and deliver value, I find it's helpful to also identify 1–3 data quick wins. These are fast, ideally relatively inexpensive ways for you to add value and demonstrate return on investment from data – which, in turn, helps you gain buy-in for those more prominent data use cases. For example, you might do some customer churn analysis, to help prevent or reduce customer turnover.
Next, for each of the data priorities/use cases that you’ve identified, you need to work through the following considerations:
In this stage, think about what data you need to achieve your goals and where that data will come from. This includes:
Data brings great rewards, but it can also be a serious liability if you don’t pay proper attention to data governance. This step encourages you to think about data quality, data security, privacy and ownership issues, transparency and ethical data use. Key considerations include:
Having decided how you want to use data, and what data you’ll need, the next step is to identify the technology and infrastructure implications of those decisions. In very simple terms, this means looking at your hardware and software needs for:
Often, the main stumbling block for companies wanting to get more out of data is the lack of data skills and knowledge. Therefore, this is a critical part of your data strategy. Ask yourself:
Leadership awareness is another important part of this. Your leadership team needs to understand why data is important and how data can help the business achieve its objectives. Ideally, this culture of data will filter throughout the whole company, so that everyone at every level is aware of the power of data.
Making a plan is one thing; delivering it is another. So this last step is about making sure your data strategy becomes reality. This includes:
Once you’ve looked at each of these areas, you can then start to create a more formal data strategy document. For me, this involves completing my Data Use Case Template for each of the data uses/projects identified and then filling in my overarching Data Strategy Template – both of which are free to download and use.
These one-page templates are incredibly useful tools that will help you clarify your data goals and requirements on paper.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.