What’s Your Data Strategy?

by | Jun 20, 2018

The Executable Data Strategy

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. 

Executable Data Strategy:

A plan for using data with purpose that includes under­stand­ing your data, archi­tect­ing data to make it useful, and acti­vat­ing data for busi­ness impact.

However, 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, we 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, is famous for coining the phrase, “Data is the new oil.” and he described it as this: “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, 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.