Data Maturity 101: Playing by the Rules of Data
Those who’ve caught my first two articles on the Data Maturity Assessment will know that a good data strategy is about much more than what’s written down – It’s only as good as the people behind it. Of course, that doesn’t mean the data experts in a business can just freestyle without some form of organisation or method. In many ways, a data strategy is like a game of rugby; everyone needs to know the rules before you have an enjoyable game on your hands.
At its core, the method by which data is extracted and used should be determined by a clear
organisational structure. That doesn’t mean a rigid structure that puts people in boxes, but rather one where roles are clear and agreed. To expand on that rugby analogy, data is a team game which requires different talents and roles to click together for a good end result. For a less data mature organisation, a centralised system where data strategies are decided by one overarching figure or team is ideal to kickstart a data transformation. Once an organisation becomes better at utilising its data, it can begin to move to a more hybrid system where data decisions can be made by individual departments for quicker and more tailored results, whilst adhering to a general overarching framework.
But what should that framework look like? When talking about data control documents, my motto is firmly that less is almost always more; organisations that want to have a successful data strategy have to make sure their data guidelines are simple, clear and, most importantly, small! There are two reasons for this; first, a data strategy document should be a living document. The smaller it is, the easier it is to update on a constant basis to reflect the reality of an organisation’s situation and evolving needs. Perhaps more importantly, these documents have to be as accessible and easy to understand as possible. You shouldn’t have to be a data scientist to understand a company’s data strategy, and this is especially important as the ultimate aim of all data strategies should be to permeate all aspects of a business.
Of course, an easy to understand data policy is only part of the journey toward a data enabled business transformation. The most important thing to remember when developing a data strategy is that a data operation shouldn’t be just bolted on to the business – A data strategy has to fit into and be based around the existing organisation framework if it is to ultimately be successful in transforming the business. Just like the wider business operating model, an organisations data operating model needs to be dynamic, constantly updated to fit the wider company goals and flexible enough to react to new business priorities.
Whilst data governance and frameworks can sound restrictive on paper, in reality a good policy document fosters the data creativity needed for an organisation to flourish. Playing by the rules of data shouldn’t mean being constricted – Good data methods and frameworks are crucial to fostering a data enabled environment that brings every part of the organisation along for the journey.