You hear a lot about the need to have a data strategy from consultants, influencers, and thought leaders alike. It’s easy to brush it off as fodder for pundits but the truth is we talk about it because we see the lack of a data strategy as a key element to the failure in many programs.
To be honest, I’ve stopped asking my clients if they have a strategy, that’s how often they are overlooked. And I certainly understand the pressure, who has time for a pretty strategy document that delivers no tangible value to stakeholders? Trouble is, you don’t not have the time either. Operating your data program without a strategy is a bit like my morning cup of coffee. It just allows me to do dumb stuff faster. This is particularly true when you have a large team or a lot going on, now you have a whole bunch of people running around not really aligned. You might get lucky, and they’ll deliver some value to someone, but consistency is the key to long-term success. Without a good understanding of what you're trying to achieve it is too easy to stay busy but not focused.
What is a Data Strategy?
A data strategy is a holistic view of your data program from raw data to insights. It covers everything from management, governance, and usage to architecture, engineering, and archival. It represents the full lifecycle and all that is required along the way to gain insights from the data.
“If you don't have a strategy for how you plan to move forward, every obstacle feels like the obstacle that will keep you stuck. It's easy to get distracted by trying to do it all right now. if you have a solid strategy from which to move forward, you know what to focus on today and what you will need to focus on tomorrow.”
-Laura Madsen "Healthcare Business Intelligence: A Guide to Empowering Successful Data Reporting and Analytics"
How Do You Write a Data Strategy?
Writing a data strategy document can be done in three phases. First, you complete listening sessions with key stakeholders to gain an understanding of what they need from the data. In those listening sessions, you specifically try to understand what a future state could look like from the eyes of the stakeholders.
Second, you complete an assessment of the current state of the program. This should encapsulate every aspect of the program from the data that’s currently available to the resources, processes, technology assets, and any previous strategies or efforts to build a data program.
After the listening sessions are complete and you understand the current state of the program you analyze the qualitative data and then create a gap assessment, essentially the work efforts that you will need to undertake to get you from your current state to the future state that your stakeholders envision. Once complete, communicate it often throughout the organization.
Take the Time
We’ve all heard the quotes about data being more valuable than oil. If your organization has invested resources into data through teams and tools, it’s worth the time to figure out exactly what you need to deliver to be considered successful. Creating a data strategy also has the added benefit of spending time with stakeholders building relationships, something that every good data leader should do. I know there’s a lot on your plate, but as my dad always says, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
Did you know that we have a Data Strategy eBook available for download? Check it out under our "Free Stuff" tab.