We define Data Strategy as a plan for using data with purpose. While it may sound simplistic, think of how many business strategies you’ve heard that fail to drive action. Or those that don’t have a defined purpose. A strategy should be a well-defined plan for making something happen. This plan becomes your blueprint for achieving desired business outcomes by understanding what’s possible, by recognizing what capabilities are required, and by activating your ideas with the right resources.

What is an Executable Data Strategy?

An executable data strategy is a plan for using data with purpose that includes understanding your data, architecting data to make it useful, and activating data for business impact.

There are lots of strategies out there that are conceived with the best intentions but that end up sitting on a shelf and gathering dust. They’re aspirational and attempt to accomplish audacious goals. They’re loaded with finely crafted recommendations and rounds of silver bullets. They reach for the stars with hopes of delivering magical results. But, all too often, they don’t.

So many strategies fail because they lack focus, they lack foundation, and they don’t drive action. We’re loathe to create strategies that don’t get put into play. Thus, Search Discovery created what we call the Executable Data Strategy.

Why Do You Need a Data Strategy?

Take a look around, data is everywhere. You generated data as you were swiping and clicking at breakfast this morning. Your wearable device tracked your workout yesterday, and you probably also generated data while you were sleeping last night. That’s just you; your business generated even more data!  Globally, Internet users generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each and every single day. Then, add business data creation and sensor-generated data. A staggering 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years. We’re all surfing the big data wave whether we like it or not.

Data is the most abundant commodity of the 21st Century. And Data Never Sleeps. It’s the new oil…as they say. But unlike oil, there’s no scarcity and no limits to how much we can generate. It’s not a natural resource, it’s fully artificial and generated by us humans and the machines we create. However, data is similar to oil in that it must be refined. Clive Humby, who coined the phrase, “Data is the new oil,” described it this way: “It’s valuable, but if unrefined, it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down [and] analyzed for it to have value.”

Your Data Strategy becomes the method to break down this commodity and find its purpose. Whether you’re collecting data with javascript tags, APIs, server-to-server integration, or some other method, simply collecting and storing the data is not enough. You must have a plan.

Three Steps to Develop Executable Data Strategies

It’s worth noting here that I intentionally changed the Executable Data Strategy to plural: Strategies. This is because to be truly actionable — to drive business outcomes — your strategies must be focused. Remember those old strategies sitting on the shelf gathering dust? Those strategies probably tried to be all of the things, to all of the people. The Executable Data Strategy is different in that it’s a plan for using data with purpose to impact business results. For this reason, we’re proponents of having multiple Executable Data Strategies that work to accomplish specific business goals. No strategy is one-size-fits-all and data strategies are no different. So when creating and conceiving Executable Data Strategies, Here the three steps to follow.

Step 1: Understand Your Data

Understanding your data is the first step in developing a successful Executable Data Strategy. Understanding data requires knowing where your data comes from, how it is collected, and how it’s defined. Too many organizations have different definitions for the same data. That’s not only confusing, it’s destructive to an organization. Understanding your data also means having a solution design and documentation that defines what data elements are collected and precisely how that happens. Additionally, understanding your data also means that you know what data you have and what data you don’t have. This is critical in developing a strategy because recognizing your gaps and limitations is equally as important as knowing your assets.

Step 2: Architect Your Data

Architecting your data is the second step in making it useful and finding its purpose. Data architecture can mean many different things, but when it comes to the Executable Data Strategy, architecture involves data connections and API’s, how you go about transforming data, and how data is stored for utilization and analysis. Architecture also includes maintaining data quality, data consistency, and data security. But perhaps most importantly, data architecture requires that you govern your data. Governance is a critical component of any data strategy and it will determine how you collect, process, share, access, and make useful the data that you have.

Step 3: Activate Your Data

Activating your data is the execution of your data strategy. Activation can be as simple as communicating data to your team at a daily standup meeting that’s designed to get everyone aligned on the same page and moving onto their daily tasks with an awareness of what yesterday’s data revealed. Activation is also a process for ad-hoc analysis that ensures business questions are translated into hypotheses, which can be validated and acted upon. Or it could be reporting, dashboards, or alerts that provide the pulse of your business and identify red flags that must be addressed immediately. But more than likely, your data activation will include automating data to optimize customer experiences, adjusting processes to become more efficient, or influencing models to increase profitability. Data activation is where your Executable Data Strategies find their purpose.

An Executable Data Strategy is a plan for using data with purpose that includes understanding your data, architecting data to make it useful, and activating data for business impact. By following these three steps to building an Executable Data Strategy, you will never again have a strategy that collects dust on the shelf.

If you’ve witnessed firsthand a well-intended business strategy fail to drive action, don’t blame the data. Data doesn’t drive anywhere until you activate it. Reach out to us and we’ll help you activate your Executable Data Strategy.

Would you like to chat about how we can help you? Fill out the form below, and let’s talk. 

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