It's been a whirlwind of a month! I started a new job as the Chief Data Officer at CSpring consulting, so I can spend more time working on data problems with clients! To go with that theme, I thought we would explore the topic of Data Strategy today. Specifically, what is a good data strategy, and how can you use it to help your business?
The first thing to consider about strategy is that it is an aspirational model. Many leaders get hung up on the how, but that's more tactical. The second thing to understand, which is hard for many technologists, is that the business has strategic imperatives; you're not generating new ones in most cases. You're trying to align the technology or data strategy to the company. Aligning plans to those goals is more about strategic alignment than new strategies. You may need to think entrepreneurial or strategically, but your aim shouldn't be to change the business's strategy unless you're a technology or data product company.
In most cases, technology and data are enabling capabilities. Therefore, you must think strategically about aligning them to the business. For instance, if your company's strategic plan is to help mid-market companies develop data capabilities that allow them to grow, then your data strategy is more of a tributary of that. Your endeavor should be to create a way to align data to deliver against that business strategy. A small company's data strategy might be some accounting in QuickBooks, and a larger company may need full analytics and a predictive modeling platform.
Why do we need data strategies, though? Can't we take the company's big goals and deal with issues as they come? The answer is complicated. Some companies can leverage a more reactive approach; for others, that's a recipe to fail. Companies that fail to recognize the importance of an aligning data strategy will ultimately find issues with data silos, poor quality, or inefficiencies. Data strategies help depict the alignment and call out these challenges as hurdles they mean to address. Data strategy, on the whole, is a function of your business strategy, business model, business goals, and technological capabilities.
Any MBA knows the basics for developing a strategic roadmap. Define the goals, map the current state, propose a future state, and implement it. Data strategy, on the whole, is the same. Once done, you should be able to put the strategy on a page.
Here are some thought-provoking questions as you build your strategy:
Elements of Data Strategy
As you continue to form your strategy, keeping these four core tactical questions in mind is essential.
This topic is easy to continue to expand on and grow. I'll post more about it in the future, but for now, here are some examples and links to help: