All businesses have data—but not all businesses are using data to their advantage. 

In order to make the most of the huge amount of information organizations accumulate per second, Business Technology (BT) leaders should prioritize developing a data strategy that converts those numbers into actionable insights

Mike Flynn, Enterprise architect at Collibra, joined Systematic at Biz Systems Magic 2021 to present on why your company needs a data strategy and five ways to get started. 

Why you need a data strategy

According to Flynn, there are a number of reasons to develop a business strategy. While it’s true that the volume of data is constantly increasing and that a robust data strategy accounts for roughly $430 billion in benefits, Flynn stated that the biggest reasons to develop a strategy are to feed into your wider business strategy, to allow for faster decision making, and to make your business more agile. Sloppy data management can have repercussions: “You don’t want the state of your data to prevent you from adopting new technology and responding to the market,” says Flynn. 

Before getting to work on a strategy, though, Flynn encouraged BT leaders to ask themselves a number of questions about their current data usage. You should know if you are using data to a competitive advantage, if your data is a liability, if you spend more time collecting and analyzing data than executing, and how you find and use data from other lines of business.

After gaining an understanding of how your business currently utilizes data, the next step is to build a strategy. Flynn says this broadly follows the pattern of understanding data, finding it, using it, then improving upon it. To further break down this process, Flynn offered five steps on how to get started.

How to get started

After exploring your company’s current data utilization, you can begin to build a strategy that serves your organization.

Step one? State the case for a revamped strategy in order to bring the rest of the company on board. This means tying strategy to wider company goals, capturing current pain points, laying out a vision for the future, and determining ways to capture and quantify the return on investment of developing this new strategy. 

After presenting the evidence in favor of a new strategy, you should next identify who in the company will act as your advocate and fight for you to get the budget needed to execute. “If you don’t have strong stewardship and a data strategy backed up by good leadership, you won’t be successful,” Flynn said.

The next step is to write it all down. Flynn noted an array of tabulations you should keep, including business purpose, before and after comparisons, data glossaries, report libraries, data gathering processes, and notations of participating teams. In recording these factors, you can track the progress and efficacy of your new strategy, allowing you to share this progress early and often with other stakeholders in your business. 

The fourth step is to give others in your company confidence to use the data by outlining what you’ve created and how it can be used. Empowering others to utilize data will establish trust in your organization and allow for greater feedback and more efficient usage in the future. This step is critical: It will allow you to improve your strategy and processes moving forward. 

The final step is to share your story and success! Flynn recommended recording short, 1-minute testimonials on the efficacy of the new strategy, and sharing those testimonials widely at town halls, all-hands meetings, and beyond.

To wrap everything up, Flynn reiterated the three most important takeaways concerning data strategy: make how you find and share data a key differentiator of your business, establish trust in your data, and understand that the value of strategy is not data or reports, but best practices for today and agility for tomorrow. 

To hear more about how to develop a data strategy that works, listen to the full session here.

Justin Kamp
About Justin Kamp

Justin is a freelance writer who primarily covers the intersection of art and technology.