Developing a Data Strategy

What is it?

A data strategy is – at its heart –  an agreed approach to determining which data an institution believes is important, what data will be collected, protected, treated, shared and used and who is accountable for it. Creating a data strategy is an important step on talking the talk around data being an asset. It positions the institution as an organisation which sees its data as a differentiator; for students, for efficiency, for effectiveness and in the management of risk.

A strategy on its own has little value. It must be weaved into the operation of the institution in recognising external regulation, internal operational and strategic reporting, the impact of change and, most of all, the culture needed to make data the opportunity of the many, not the responsibility of the few.

How can I use it?

The majority of our work developing data strategies is  pulling together the disparate threads of an institution into a compelling whole. This could include existing policies around regulation, information security, business intelligence, analytics allied to a focus on what the outcomes of the strategy need to be.

The strategy is shaped by setting the ‘rules of the road’ so being very clear and transparent about who is accountable for data,  and how decisions are made to support improving the institutional  data asset. We recommend senior sponsor writes a forward, so the strategy can be used to communicate the rationale of why data will be treated differently, and what this actually means in practice.

A good data strategy is read by anyone at an institution; students, academics, professional staff, governors etc,  and leave them understanding why a change is needed, what their role is, and how they should enact it and who they can ask for help.

Who else is using it?

We’ve come across many strategies in our work in the sector. Many have been untouched for years and often written in a way that does not resonate with anyone. Many ‘strategies’ are in fact policies detailing with operational issues such as IT security. There is rarely a coherent and agreed strategy for data.

So our approach has been to really start with the universities’ objectives, the current activities in play, and the principles for managing data agreed with a broad range of stakeholders. We have a number of templates and examples to speed this work up.

This has led to the development of nine strategies in the last two years. Eight of these have been for UK universities and one for a major sector body.

How much does it cost?

Our data strategy development and implementation uses four workshops to create a strategy and a plan to implement and integrate it. This is offered at a fixed cost which will includes discovery and post strategy activity.  The outline of that approach is shown here:

  • Develop a data strategy through a series of short workshops with a broad stakeholder base
  • Use the material created from one of four templated maturity assessments to inform this work
  • Develop the foundation of an operating model including a data governance capability
  • Understand how best to use that strategy to focus on areas identified as important to the university
  • Agree how the strategy will interact with current and future projects, related polices, etc.

The outcome for the first workshop is show here:

‘A pragmatic and actionable data strategy is an integral component of the University’s ambition to govern and manage its data effectively and efficiently, and in visible support of its objectives’

This workshop will combine work completed under existing initiatives with best practice from inside and outside of the sector, to develop a strategy which encompasses the many different audiences and requirements for data at the university.

Where can I find out more?

Please get in touch using our contact details below. We can provide an anonymised sample strategy and a further detail on both the overall methodology, and the individual workshops.

If you would like to discuss this further, we would love to hear from you.

Contact Us