Developing a Data Strategy

What is it?

A data strategy is – at its heart – an agreed approach to determining which data a university 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 customers, 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, the inefficiencies of current processes, 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 a university into a compelling whole. This could include existing policies around sector 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 organisational 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 resonates with everyone in a university; be that students,  academics, professional staff, boards or governors, etc. It should  leave them with understanding why a change is needed, what their role is, how they should enact it and who they can ask for help.

All our strategies are accompanied by a detailed plan custom built for each university. This holds all the necessary steps to operationalise the strategy.

Who else is using it?

We’ve come across many strategies in our work across different universities worldwide. Many have been untouched for years and often written in a way that does not resonate with anyone. Some ‘strategies’ are nothing more than  policies dealing with operational issues such as IT security. Others we would term as ‘marketing documents’. There is rarely a coherent and agreed strategy for data.

So our approach has been to really start with the university objectives, the problems we’re trying to solve, the current activities in play, and the principles for managing data agreed with a broad range of stakeholders. We have developed a large number of best practice template, operating models and examples to speed this work up.

This has led to the development of eleven strategies in the last two years. These include the University of Birmingham, Coventry University, Hartpury University, the University of Liverpool, UCLAN, Ulster University and UCL. All of these are referencable on request.

How much does it cost?

Our data strategy development and implementation utilises four half day 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 organisation
  • Agree how the strategy will interact with current and future projects, related polices, etc.
  • Create a detailed plan to operationalise the strategy.

The agenda for the first of those workshops is:

Workshop 1: Define outcomes, scope and principles

Outcomes and outputs:

  • Agree and document why we want a data strategy
  • Agree and document what will change when the strategy is implemented
  • Agree the scope, audience and reach for the strategy
  • Agree principles and how they will be contextualised.

The opening for that workshop concludes ‘A pragmatic and actionable data strategy is an integral component of the organisation’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 organisation

Can this service be delivered remotely?

Since the advent of the Corona virus and the associated social distancing rules, we have worked hard to move the majority of our services to remote collaboration. This has involved writing new material, sourcing collaboration applications, rehearsing remote delivery techniques and, of course, speaking to our customers about their needs, We have been overwhelmed with the support from both our existing and potential new customers in endorsing this approach. We already have two data strategy projects being delivered remotely with other services soon to follow.

We do believe we can adapt to the current restrictions in a positive and engaging way. Please get in touch for more detail, and to receive our short ’successful collaboration’ paper we’ve just finished!

Where can I find out more?

Please get in touch using our contact details below. We can provide an anonymised sample strategy with further detail on both the overall methodology, and the agendas/outcomes for the four individual workshops. References are available on request.

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

Contact Us