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You want to start using your big data to obtain valuable insights to optimise your business – excellent! However, before you jump in head first into googling ‘data analytics software solutions’ there are a few important strategic steps to consider first.
Every successful organisation has a business strategy, a clear picture of where the business is headed, what it’s priorities and obstacles are, along with some medium and long term goals. It is from this business strategy that subsequent more granular strategies are formed, including Product, Marketing and Sales strategies and the newest strategy of them all, Data Strategy.
The MIT CISR Data Board says that a Data Strategy is a “central, integrated concept that articulates how data will enable and inspire business strategy”
So, basically a data strategy looks to how data can solve business needs and obstacles, be that from an operational, product or sales point of view.
Before you look at the tools that enable your data strategy and therefore your overall company strategy, we suggest you take the time to put together a data strategy which answers the following questions;
Your data is a powerful asset that can assist with your business’ strategic priorities. It’s important to take a wholistic view of the data that already exists across the business and ask if this data can be used to help meet the business goals. Are their any gaps where data is needed and not being collected, and if so consider how the necessary data could be collected or obtained through an external source.
This step will enable you to define some short term and long term use cases for your data strategy.
Your data is a highly valued asset, and as such the storage of the data needs to be prioritised. It is important to consider that data is now used across business departments, and so needs to be accessed, shared and used by various applications. In fact most data is used by 10 different systems, be that internal systems, cloud applications, business partners or external providers.
It is critical when dealing with Big Data to ensure that data isn’t being duplicated and stored by individuals and applications, as this not only affects your storage costs as well as adds risk to data integrity and security.
When obtaining insights and making business decisions based on your data, it is essential that the data is accurate. Time needs to be invested into formulating a data governance framework. This will resolve inconsistencies in how data is measured and reported, as well as security and privacy rules. A data governance framework often includes a data dictionary which establishes data value names and formats which the whole company and 3rd party suppliers can abide by, saving both time and confusion later down the track.
To implement a data strategy it’s important to ask if your people are ‘data ready’? Do they have the skills and tools to use the data and get the necessary insights from it? If the answer is no, can you upskill your team or do you need to bring in some fresh new talent? It is not necessary for every person to have developer skills, you may have data analysts and stewards scattered throughout business units that are supported by a core data team, comprised of data engineers and scientists. This ensures that essential business knowledge is retained, and helps keep the data team in-step with the overall business strategy.
As a company that provides a platform for industrial analytics we know first hand the frustrations that come from organisations that lack data strategies. In some situations a case study is put forward by an Operations team for data analytics to help solve a problem, this gets approved and a pilot project is set up. Even though this pilot project may have great success the company as a whole lacks the ability to scale and benefit. This often stems from major silos within the organisation with differing agendas for IT and innovation.
Data is often still treated as a bi-product of business not as a valued asset which has whole of enterprise benefits. Therefore it is essential that a data strategy is championed by the top of the organisation and clearly exists to improve business processes and overall performance. Some companies have adopted a new Chief Data Officer position, which can assist as a bridge with between IT and Operations, aligning priorities, data methodologies and resources to the business strategy.
So, before jumping into researching data analytics vendors and platforms to partner with, we suggest you take stock of your data culture and prepare a data strategy if one is not already in place. Once you’ve taken your internal teams through this process and strategies are aligned, you’ll have the necessary foundations in place to apply data analytic applications.
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