When is the best time to have a data strategy? Yesterday. When is the second-best time? Today.
The business world is far more agile than it was a decade ago. As a result, there is less emphasis on rigorous long-term planning and projects, IT projects in particular, tend to be judged on their short-term business case merits. Whilst, taken individually, each of the projects selected for funding may satisfy their individual business-case justification, it is also crucially important to ensure that all such projects contribute to the overall objectives of the company. I have written a blog in the past on the need to consider not just what a project needs to achieve but also why it needs to achieve it and this is another facet of that discussion.
This is where a data strategy fits in. First and foremost, a data strategy should exist as an enabler for the business strategy and should be closely aligned to it. In fact, most of the early stages of formulating a data strategy, and the initiatives to implement it, are more business than technology-focused. It is tempting to believe that a fancy piece of software (or hardware) is the answer to your data issues and to lead the conversation from there but that really is putting the cart before the horse.
Incidentally, in a modern, progressive company, a business strategy should focus heavily on how best to serve the customer which will, ultimately, be in the best interests of your organisation. To that end, it follows that your data strategy should have customer experience at its heart. Your data siloes should not become your customers’ problem.
It is also worth noting that, for most companies today, cloud adoption is an important part of both their corporate and IT strategy and we are increasingly hearing the term “cloud-first” in connection with new initiatives. There are many factors which determine which cloud provider or providers (companies often work with more than one) that a company wishes to align to, political and commercial as well as technical, and establishing this should be a priority. Adopting cloud should then become a guiding principle for business and data strategies rather than a separate strategy in itself.
Why is a data strategy so important? Because it acts as a framework for prioritising initiatives and projects and ensures that every one of them, irrespective of the strength of their individual business-case, helps the company to move towards achieving its overall business objectives. Associated with a data strategy should be a roadmap of key initiatives which takes into account priorities and dependencies and it is important to understand the difference between the two: a strategy is a statement of direction, milestones and constraints; the roadmap plots the initiatives that can realise the objectives of the strategy.
Why was yesterday the best time to have a data strategy in place? Because you can only make decisions today in the here-and-now and having the framework in place is the way to make sure those project decisions are effective, from a business perspective. The good news is that tomorrow is the new today but at what point do you want to start maximising the effectiveness of your IT initiatives in terms of contributing to the business’s own definition of success?
SDG Group helps companies to navigate this minefield and formulate, then execute against, a data strategy that firmly positions IT as a contributor to business success. If you would like to learn more then email me using the details below to find a slot to talk through the situation at your company in order to explore whether we might be a suitable partner to assist you on this journey.