Data Maturity 101: People Powered Data
I ended last week’s data maturity article by saying that an organisation’s success with data depends on so much more than what it’s got on paper. Understanding the purpose and value of data is more than a well written, but ultimately misused, data strategy. And while plans, processes and systems are all important tools in getting the best out of data, what really makes or breaks an organisation’s data strategy is the people using it every day (and no, that’s not just a Chief Data Officer…)
One of the first questions a Data Maturity Assessment will ask of an organisation is; what skills are present in your business? Simply having a Chief Data Officer, Data Scientist or other data specific roles isn’t always enough, especially if a business hasn’t considered whether those people and positions are right for the organisation. Businesses with an existing data strategy won’t get as much value out of a first generation CDO with experience in building the foundations of data architecture as they would from a second generation CDO specialising in expanding capabilities, for example.
Ensuring existing employees understand what data can do for them is also critical; data literacy is the ability to create, read, write and argue with data. In an ideal world, all employees would at least have a foundational level of data literacy, so having the correct facilities for training is crucial. The Data Maturity Assessment introduces new terms and concepts into an organisation which helps to build a base level of data knowledge.
The skills of employees in an organisation are directly influenced by the behaviour of a business’s leadership. If senior executives aren’t making decisions based on data, then how can the rest of the organisation be expected to do so? A corporate culture that doesn’t treat data as an asset on a par with technology, finances or human resources is perhaps the biggest barrier to promoting data literacy and implementing an effective data strategy.
So how do organisations in a data rut embark on a true data-enabled transformation? How can they overcome data illiteracy and uninterested senior executives? The answer is a data leader. This could be a Chief Data Officer or data scientist, or a different role entirely such as a CIO or CTO. Whatever the role or background, having an individual who understands data and can confidently express why it’s so important to an organisation is critical to improving data capabilities. It’s no good having a data leader who is only using data because others are doing so; they need to understand the value of data as an asset and have the skills to promote that value right across an organisations structure.
At times, data may feel like a very technical, dry and automated side to a business. The truth, though, is that an organisation’s data can only ever be as good as the people in charge of it. Creativity and, above all, a good understanding of the value data can bring is critical to implementing a successful modern data strategy.
Good data is people powered!