• Caroline Carruthers

Data Maturity 101: The Tools of the Trade

Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about the key concepts that underpin an organisation’s data strategy. From solid framework and understanding through to innovative and creative individuals, there’s so much that influences the effectiveness of a data strategy. But one area we haven’t explored is the tools that both enable a solid data strategy and require one to operate effectively. In this final article of my Data 101 series, I’m exploring the different tools and processes available to businesses thanks to data and why a successful strategy isn’t as simple as keeping up with the latest IT trends.

It seems obvious, but many organisations don’t understand that data is what underpins all of their metrics. Everything from sales forecasts to capacity planning and analysis of new business opportunities comes from the collection of data. What businesses often fail to do is to verify exactly where the metrics they use for decision making come from, which often leads to poor recommendations and strategies. Building a business model on the recommendations of bad data is like building a house of cards – The final product might look impressive at first, but you’ll soon find out that the whole thing will come crashing down with the slightest pressure. The invaluable information that an organisation gets from this kind of analysis is only as good as the data that it us built on. When discussing metrics with businesses, I always recommend two things: That they choose metrics based on data points that they can easily measure, and data points that ultimately matter to the business. If the organisation gets the data foundations right, it will have access to powerful information that can transform its operations and business model for the better.

Getting to the point where collected data can be analysed and utilised requires good data

architecture. The data that an organisation collects, from sales information to competitor ad spend or market value, has to be able to flow through an organisation in order to help all aspects of that business. It is no good for an organisation to collect data but not send it anywhere, or only use it to benefit specific departments. Good data architecture is instrumental in opening up the journey data takes and feeding information into every part of a business to get the most out of the raw information.

So, what do I mean when I say data architecture? It’s a collection of data guidelines, best practice, business culture and, of course, data infrastructure all rolled into one. Good data architecture draws on all of the areas I’ve covered in previous articles in this series to ensure the data collected is being utilised as efficiently as possible. What it is not is simply technology, and this is where many organisations become stuck – For a long time, data has been seen as the remit of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a company, and the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) and CIO have been seen as interchangeable. As I explained in more detail in a recent article, the two roles have grown up together, but fulfil very different tasks. Good data utilisation, and getting the most out of a CDO, is about more than simply keeping up with the latest IT trends.

The analogy I always use to differentiate between CIOs and CDOs is to look at data like a bucket of water: the CIO is in charge of the bucket, or the systems used to store the data, whilst the CDO is in charge of the water, or the data itself. The two roles need to work symbiotically to get the most out of an organisations data and, ultimately, to unlock the full potential of the different tools and operations that are available to a business with a good data foundation.

So, there you have it. In this short series, we’ve covered the four key areas of a data mature

organisation: purpose, people, method and, finally, the tools associated with a good data strategy. These articles have really just scratched the surface of what a data mature organisation looks like, but I hope they encourage readers to delve more deeply into looking at how data, far from being just another trend in the digital world, can bring about positive change to a business and its culture.

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