21 Questions You Should Be Asking of Your Data Strategy

Here’s your first question: Do you have a data strategy?

If not, then giddy-up. It’s time to jump on that horse, because there’s gold in that-there-data. If so, then you are ahead on the data strat­egy curve, and here are some ques­tions that you should be think­ing about to deter­mine how good (or bad) your data strat­egy really is.

Question #2: Who owns your data strategy?

We’ve grouped our data strat­egy readi­ness ques­tions into three cate­gories, because we believe that data strat­egy funda­men­tally rests upon three basic concepts: A) Under­stand Your Data, B) Archi­tect Your Data, C) Acti­vate Your Data. These basics are really the ABC’s of pulling together a solid data strat­egy that can pass the test of creat­ing compet­i­tive advan­tage and prepar­ing to beat the market. So here goes…

Understanding Your Data

3)  What types of data do we have and what types do we need?

Think about what you’re working towards and assess data accord­ingly.

4) Why are we collecting/buying this data?

Have purpose for the data you collect and purchase. The days of captur­ing everything—in hopes of using it sometime—are gone. Collect data for a purpose.

5) Who has access to our data?

Safe­guard data. Data can be misused, abused, and miscon­strued. Monitor access so data doesn’t “acci­den­tally” fall into the wrong hands.

6) Where do we store, process, and analyze data?

C’mon, you don’t know? Aren’t sure? It’s a big ques­tion because your data is all over the place. Get a grip on it. Map it out.

7) How are we protecting PII and complying with GDPR?

Don’t think GDPR is going to impact you? Think again. You’re not insu­lated and you’re prob­a­bly liable. But no worries, they’re not chasing you…YET. Be wary, Cali­for­nia passed privacy laws in June of 2018, which have major impli­ca­tions!

8) When was the last time we took inventory of our data?

How ‘bout that dirty, messy, data? Everybody’s got dirty data. The cleanup in Row 4 may tell you that things don’t match. But the bigger problem is that you’re sending data out, to who knows where, via 3rd party sharing apps. That could be a problem. Inves­ti­gate this. Rein it in.

Architect Your Data

9)  What data connections and APIs exist?

You know your teams can auto­mate many of your data streams in various ways. What are you doing and how does it impact data flows?

10)  Why aren’t we aggregating data silos to gain a holistic perspective?

It’s a classic problem. Silos of data. (Sigh.) Pretty much one for each tech in your stack. Are you confi­dent in your multi­plat­form data archi­tec­ture?

11)  Who is responsible for data quality, accuracy, and governance?

These will absolutely be differ­ent teams, but knowing who owns what is essen­tial. Search Discovery advo­cates for special­ized exper­tise and a cross-func­tional gover­nance council.

12)  Where does data flow from one platform to another?

You must know how the plumb­ing works. Or, if you don’t want to know, then sub it out, but it still has to be managed and main­tained. Inte­gra­tions break down. They need to be moni­tored with some good old QA.

13)  How do we establish metrics, KPIs, and targets that matter?

All too many people think they have KPIs, but they don’t. With good inten­tions, they dili­gently watch the minor fluc­tu­a­tions of their metrics. But action isn’t insti­gated, and there­fore, change doesn’t occur. Targets create a sense of urgency. Use them.

14) When does data refresh and update in systems and platforms?

How real is real-time? I’ve asked this ques­tion for a long time. The answer depends on how fast you need it. Don’t crow for real-time data unless you’ll use it to dynam­i­cally trigger events or opti­mize on the fly. Other­wise, settle down. Fifteen minute refresh rates should be more than enough.

Activate Your Data

15) What communication methods do we have for sharing data?

We must talk about this stuff. Even if it’s just a 10 minute stand-up to review metrics and discuss targets. That’s opti­miz­ing in flight. But we also need the weekly and monthly reports with analy­sis and context.

16) Why don’t we use data to optimize assets in near real-time?

This is pretty much the crux between looking back­wards and being reac­tive, or looking forward and being proac­tive. Being in the moment—and at least a half step ahead—is where it’s at.

17) Who in our company uses data to model predictive decision-making?

So we agree you need it, good…now who’s gonna do it? Don’t place all your hopes and dreams on a single data rock star. Data manage­ment, model­ing, and analy­sis requires inputs from around the busi­ness.

18) Where can data trigger automated actions (e.g., content, email, SMS?)

Acti­va­tion means doing some­thing, so here’s your chance. Use data to know when to reach out to customers—and on which of their devices—and do so in a consen­sual way that builds trust and puts the customer first.

19) How can we use data to accelerate our digital transformation?

This is a cultural shift. It will take time. Prove the value by illus­trat­ing what forward-think­ing looks like. Whether antic­i­pat­ing the perfect audi­ence, or config­ur­ing the algo­rithm two steps ahead, your trans­formed future awaits.

20) When should we revisit our data strategy?

Annu­ally, at minimum. Today, if you’re worried. Tomor­row, if you’re a confi­dent over­achiever. But some­time soon, so that you can docu­ment and defend why you’re acti­vat­ing data with controlled abandon!

So, there you have it…The ques­tions you should be asking of your data strat­egy. Oh, but I did promise you twenty-one ques­tions, didn’t I? Your last ques­tion…

21) Need help building out your data strategy?

Drop me a line. I’d love to chat. A data strat­egy is a terri­ble thing to waste.

And, of course, no single blog post can address all of the ques­tions about data strat­egy, so if you have ideas or addi­tional ques­tions that I forgot, please shoot me an email, tweet me @johnlovett, or reach out using the form below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy strate­giz­ing!

Let us help you build your data strategy.

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