Many individuals within organisations today are frustrated by their level of data capability. Senior staff are equally frustrated that data ‘always seems to be hard’ in terms of the amount of effort to create seemingly trivial outputs. Both have a valid point of view but improvements to data management should reconcile them.
However making the change is hard. If it wasn’t, we would already be doing it. The list below is a summary of my experience in getting on the road to data enlightenment. It won’t solve all your problems but it may give you a better idea where to start that journey.
- Sponsor Data Capability top down. Data is like oxygen, the value of it is commonly only realised when it is removed. For any maturity journey to be successful it must have a sponsor at the most senior level of the organisation. There are many benefits that dovetail to both short and long term aspirations which can be delivered in part or wholly by creating a roadmap to a better data capability. This needs to be articulated, driven and persisted with by a senior sponsor. Driving data improvement from inside operations or IT is almost always doomed to failure.
- Find an initiative/tie into those benefits. Linked to 1) – the ideal way to show the value of increasing data maturity is to link the outputs of the initiative to a project that will be enhanced/enabled by delivering them. Data capability within a data silo helps no one. It is time to let it into the wild.
- Create a data culture. Data is everybody’s opportunity and should be showcased in the same way as other organisational values. Providing better tools and the capabilities for people to do their jobs will create data analysts ‘for free’ and improve the efficiency/efficacy of everyone handling data, not just the data specialists.
- Consider tooling for quick wins. Linked to 3) – there may be tooling available which has immediate and measurable benefits for one or multiple business units/departments/teams. The only cautionary comment here is to ensure it meshes with other technical roadmaps and does not create silos/specific tools that only one person or department can use.
- Look for commonality within separate initiatives. Everyone will be doing data’ somewhere. There’s a huge opportunity to pull together this cross-disciplinary work and share it with everyone. Don’t respect the hierarchy, passion for data is more important than position.
- Do not expect things to change overnight. While some initiatives can ‘jump start’ a maturity increase, it takes time, effort, focus and sometimes bloody-mindedness to get this over the line. There will always be resistance to change, so simple and effective communication plans and realistic timetables for measurable increases in capability are mandatory.
- Baseline your maturity. We always need an ‘as-is’ state to help us understand our gaps. Don’t get too hung up on this though – a rough and ready assessment will tell you what you already know. Don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis.
- Assess where you are regularly. It’s important to create a roadmap but even more important is for it not to become dogmatic. Remember to focus the increase in capability to support the activities the organisation requires. These will change and your roadmap and priorities must change with them.
- Treat everyone equally. Everyone starts from a different place with data. It is important to have a ‘big tent’ to make sure the views of all are understood and respected. Especially those working daily in operations who often have excellent ideas but do not have the bandwidth/mandate to get them implemented.
- Catch the bus before it leaves! You have identified the need to improve data capability. This is the ideal time to do so. What are you waiting for?
Improving data capability is not easy. It is however becoming increasingly important and urgent. The solution is not to embark on a massively unwieldy ‘Data Project’. Instead begin by appreciating the value of your data asset and treating it appropriate