Once you have identified your company’s level of data maturity, it is tempting to dive into fixing the issues to get to the next level. Often that manifests itself as buying some technology that can either collect the data you need, analyse and report on data to be data-driven or orchestrate the customer journey to be customer-centric.
However, before thinking about technology, we advise our clients to look at three areas.
1. Vision and KPI Alignment
2. Strategic Direction supported with Tactics
3. Unifying your Current Technology Stack
So let’s unpack these:
Vision and KPI Alignment
To improve your level of data maturity, the business must agree and articulate exactly what it stands for, and this must be shared and understood throughout the business. It is not enough for the message to come from the top and be shared throughout the organisation. It needs to be understood by everyone in the organisation, including how their role plays a part.
To do this, a business should;
- Define critical KPIs that everyone should work towards. It’s nice for each team or department to have its own KPIs, but a commonly shared set of critical KPIs should be agreed upon across the business, allowing business activities conducted by different teams to work towards common milestones.
- Utilise the company’s vision to evolve the way the business operates by using KPIs to ensure that everyone in the organisation is pulling in the right direction. To do this, use data as the foundation of decision making, and integrate data skills or resources within each team to fully benefit from the data. In the face of opinion only, ask where is the evidence, and how did we learn that this was the right decision?
- Then think about how you can use advanced data skills (AI & ML) to help your organisation achieve the highest level of data maturity. This may be many years away, but creating a plan on how you expect to use advanced data skills will help you envisage how your business needs to transform.
By aligning your KPIs to your organisation’s vision, you are ensuring that you can measure progress towards success.
Strategic direction supported with tactics
The business should focus on its strategic objectives and identify those short-term activities that it can execute tactically, rather than enthusiastically engage in tactical activities, identified as ‘low hanging fruit’ as a means to do more data-related initiatives.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to pause everything, just to create a long-term strategy. So, we recommend that once a vision has been established, and work towards a long-term strategy is being worked on, revisit the backlog of tactics and filter those which align with the strategic direction. There is a risk that as the strategic objectives are being fleshed out, things may change, but you will find that 90% of the tactical activities you deliver will align with your strategic direction.
To set yourself up for success, the business should;
- Stop confusing technology solutions as a strategy. Trying to fix gaps in your data maturity with technology solutions is not the answer. If you find that technology can enable a tactical activity or help you to get closer to your strategic objectives, by all means, procure that technology, but never believe that to achieve a high level of data maturity you need a CDP, CRM, DMP, etc. It’s rare that technology alone will resolve your challenges.
- When collecting or using data, always view it through the lens of your strategic visions. If you build reports, how do they provide insights to deliver on your strategic vision? How does your customer segmentation or website personalisation help deliver on your strategic vision? The use of data in itself does not move you along the data maturity spectrum. It’s how that data is used to achieve your strategic objectives which help companies achieve a higher level of data maturity.
- Your strategic vision should also give you an idea of how you should unify your data and give you the steps you need to take to make that a reality. For example, if a publisher wanted to know its visitors’ interests and preferences through first-party data, then knowing at some stage they will need to get their customers to register themselves should help plan how they would connect registration data with your email newsletter or ad-server.
Working towards a strategic vision that helps you become more data mature doesn’t mean stopping everything until that vision has been formulated. It is still possible to execute tactics as long as they are viewed through the lens of the company’s vision.
Unifying your current technology stack
Data and technology are so closely intertwined that to improve your data maturity, you need to have technologies in place which are connected to each other.
To understand how you can unify your technology, the business should;
- Identify where opportunities exist to integrate technology solutions. Are manual processes required to produce reports from two or more systems, where data must be extracted and joined elsewhere before those reports can be produced? If so, does a connector between current technologies exist that can be leveraged to deliver all the data needed for reporting into a single source?
- Develop a single course of truth, be that a data warehouse or data lake or lakehouse. The ability to combine all data sources across the business into a single repository is a foundational and fundamental step in the data maturity journey. A highly data mature business has access to information in a timely and efficient manner.
- Once technology and data are unified, businesses should seek to explore and leverage data that will allow the business to explore new opportunities.
The process of unifying your technology stack will help you create a technology roadmap for your data that aligns with the company’s strategic objectives. This will determine what technologies you keep, those no longer need and which new ones you should procure.
As we do this exercise with many of our clients, we help them really focus on what is important. Data plays a central role for many modern companies, and it is important that the technologies selected and used by the business help and not hinder a company’s data maturity.
If you find yourself knowing where you want to go, but not quite sure how to get there, drop us a message at [email protected] and we can help you work towards a strategic vision, as well as identify the tactics you can execute now, with an experienced team of data strategists, data engineers and data scientists/analysts.