• Caroline Carruthers

Data Maturity 101: What’s the Purpose of Data?

Those who attended the recent CDO Summer school (or those who have read my and Peter Jackson’s latest book!) will know all about our Data Maturity Assessments. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at the four key areas of the Data Maturity Assessment, explaining what the assessment uncovers and what its results can say about a business. We start with what, to me, is the most logical question to ask any organisation: what is the purpose of your data?

The Data Maturity Assessment was created to provide an holistic overview of an organisation’s data capabilities and provides it with a bespoke framework which can be used to improve data literacy. The assessment looks at every aspect of a business, from its data strategy and governance through to its tech usage and the skills of its staff. It’s less of a pop-quiz on data, and more of a dig into the very core foundations of an organisation’s ability to use data to its full potential. But what are those core foundations, and how does our assessment help an organisation to build better data foundations?

We start with the area of data maturity that is often the most overlooked. Understanding why an organisation uses data is just as important, if not more important, than knowing what it’s doing with it. Take a data strategy, for example. Some businesses have one (not enough), but simply writing a document that outlines how a business is using data is not enough. A successful data strategy has to be alive, undergoing regular reviews so that it remains flexible. In light of the last six months of lockdown and the subsequent economic downturn, the need to change and update your data strategy to fit the business reality has never been more important.

Being able to update a data strategy relies on an organisation’s ability to recognise the risks of using data. I’m very much an optimist, so to me the majority of a business’s attention should be focussed on where it’s going. That being said, organisations (and in particular data leaders within those organisations) have to be prepared to look over their shoulders on occasions to understand any hazards that may be coming their way. Regular reviews of data risks, which can be anything from potential security issues to understanding the latest regulations on data storage and use, are crucial to building the right framework for a modern data strategy.

Underpinning that strategy and being informed by regular reviews of potential data risks, is the data governance in an organisation. When the Carruthers and Jackson assessment looks at an organisation’s data governance, it isn’t looking for rigid rules that stifle creativity in the name of regulation compliance. To me, governance should be seen to play the same role as a referee in a rugby game; they are there to keep the players safe, and to make sure that they abide by the rules, of course. But they have an obligation to do it in a way that ensures a free-flowing game that is enjoyable for spectators to watch and rewards flares of skill. Governance, like a matchday referee, has to expose the dangerous whilst keeping things as free flowing as possible. It’s not just about saying no!

Understanding the purpose of data is the most critical step to becoming a more data mature

organisation. It’s the x at the beginning of the pirates map, the chance to start your journey in the right direction and hope that better can be achieved.

The Data Maturity Assessment doesn’t just take into account what an organisation does on paper with regards to strategy and governance, it digs deeper to uncover just how much a business understands the importance and purpose of its data.

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