Data has been called the “new oil,” since it is so valuable in today’s digital economy.
The phrase has caused quite the debate, with opinions falling all over the map:
- Some argue that data is the new oil while others argue that it doesn’t have the same influence.
- There are those that argue data was the new oil but now it has taken its place as the world’s most valuable resource.
- Still, others claim that data was the new oil until the oil caught fire.
The fact that a simple phrase has caused such a stir is strong evidence that data has become essential in the modern business world.
Since the effective use of data can generate a competitive advantage in the marketplace, every business should have a data strategy.
What is a data strategy?
Simply put, a data strategy defines how an organization handles and makes use of its data.
More specifically, a data strategy covers functions such as:
- Data collection. The first step in any data pipeline is the “ingestion” of data, and in a data strategy, the process isn’t much different – data must be collected before it can be used.
- Data storage. Once data has been collected, it must be stored in databases such as data warehouses or “lakes”.
- Data management. Stored data will then be organized and maintained so it can be leveraged when needed.
- Data analysis. When it is time to make use of data, certain parties within the organization, such as data analysts, will analyze and gather insights through techniques such as data mining.
- Data usage. Finally, data will be applied in order to enhance business outcomes.
Data strategies should also be closely integrated with other business functions and activities, such as the business strategy, IT strategy, and operations.
Like any other plan, a data strategy should go hand-in-hand with a framework that includes:
- Operational steps to achieve those goals
- Processes that drive the data strategy
- Roles within the organization
- Metrics and KPIs
The overarching purpose of the data strategy is to support the business strategy. Therefore, all of the elements of the data strategy should be specifically designed to support the organization’s objectives.
What can you achieve with a data strategy?
Commonly cited benefits of data-driven methods and strategies include:
- Deeper insight into business processes
- Increased business efficiency
- A greater understanding of customers and their needs
- Improved decision-making
Data generates deeper insights across the organization. From internal business functions to customer-facing applications, data can deliver significant performance advantages wherever it is applied.
To those who can collect and implement it effectively, data will have a major competitive impact for the foreseeable future.
Building a data strategy
Here are a few points to keep in mind when creating a data strategy:
- Focus on results. A data strategy should begin with the desired business outcomes. With those goals in mind, leaders and managers can then work in reverse to define processes. The strategy should define an overarching approach to achieving those aims and follow up with specific plans and activities.
- Move fast and fail fast. Experimentation is key to the success of any initiative. No business process will be perfect right out of the gate, so it is important to continually and rapidly try, fail, and refine. Also, naturally, data strategies should be optimized with data.
- Data is everywhere. Look everywhere in your organization for data. Modern software is a goldmine of data that many organizations leave untapped.
- Obtain buy-in early on. Executive support is critical to the success of any initiative. Organizations that have yet to develop a data strategy should enlist the support of executives with the power and desire to drive these changes forward, such as CIOs.
- Integrate data across the business. Data strategies can only support business strategies if they are thoroughly embedded throughout departments and their tech stacks. This will require the implementation of policies and practices across the organization, but it will be a gradual process for most companies.
- Manage change. Change management is the business discipline tasked with overseeing and guiding organizational change efforts. The less mature an organization’s data strategy, the more they will need the support of change leaders and change managers.
- Cultivate a data culture. An organization’s culture greatly affects employee behavior, which impacts business processes, workflows, and activities. When an organization embraces data in the corporate culture, data-driven practices will permeate throughout the business and become engrained in everyday practices.
A well-executed data strategy can result in sweeping improvements throughout an organization, so it is important to craft an effective strategy and ensure that it is adopted at every level of the business.
So…is data the new oil?
Seeing as oil may be on its way out thanks to alternative energy sources, no. Data is making waves that will only continue to grow as technology finds more ways into our daily lives. If anything, data is a new super-currency whose value will only appreciate with time.
Learn to leverage the expertise of those who have experience implementing a data strategy, such as IT staff, data specialists, or data consultants. Follow the points mentioned above to design and execute the right data strategy.