Market research of global data maturity reveals the negative commercial impact of ill-planned investments in data projects and why companies get stuck in the “Data Ditch”
More businesses have started to invest in their Data Maturity and have begun their journey to make smarter, wider use of their data. However, more than half of those businesses are in the “Data Ditch”. Measured by more than 10 metrics of business performance, they are worse off than if they had not bothered.
Meanwhile, a third of businesses have come out the other side and have seen dramatic upticks to their performance.
These are the findings of our Data Maturity Impact Report.
The report is unique market research into the progress made by mid-tier organizations and enterprises in their use of data. The report also shows the commercial impacts seen at the various stages of development.
500 NA & EMEA respondents
…spread from SME to Enterprise
*All respondents were confirmed to be part of the data leadership, predominantly Director and C-level
A shift to the right
One of the principle high-level findings was that since we performed a similar investigation in 2019, there has been a noticeable surge in the number of organizations pursuing greater data maturity.
This is perhaps unsurprising. Business commentary has been dominated by discussions of the untapped potential of data for organizations of all sizes, so naturally, the business world has responded.
The struggles of 2020 and 2021 only put this into sharper context. Oganizations that had invested in better data infrastructure were not only able to adapt to remote working more immediately, but were also in a stronger position to adapt to the new market dynamics. Those that couldn’t struggled to survive.
This highlights more than just an overconfidence. More importantly, it also shows a lack of appreciation of two things: what is actually required to be truly data mature and particularly to structure data so it can be fully exploited and interacted with safely.
If so many people consider themselves to be fully mature, but so few truly are, clearly there is a disconnect in businesses’ understanding of what it means to use their data fully.
This supports the main finding of the report: the appearance of the Data Ditch.
The Data Ditch
Does it matter that so many organizations are overconfident in their data maturity and so underappreciative of how far they really have to go?
Isn’t it just a misalignment and a sign of naivety that is quickly solved with greater education?
Yes, in part. But in the meantime, businesses are suffering. More than half of businesses are in the “Data Ditch”. They are creating their own substantial and wide-ranging downturns in almost every performance metric.
By every metric of business performance, businesses that have only reached mid-maturity are worse off than those that have not even started on their data journey. This includes financials, ability to bring new ideas to market, NPS scores and customer retention, technical performance, employee retention and even measures of human relationships. And more.
But when organizations “skip the data ditch” and reach the latter stages of maturity, every performance metric soars.
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What are the best performers doing that those in the Data Ditch are not?
Simply put, they are taking a more strategic approach.
Further analysis of those in Stages 5 and 6 shows that they perform extraordinarily well in four key areas – the same four key areas that those in the Data Ditch underperform in:
- Data Goverance
The foundation stone for any advanced use of data, and arguably one of the least understood and most overlooked. Built on a clear vision for how data should be used; followed by a strategy for how data should be structured, stored, architected, treated and protected.
- Data Ethics
A detailed understanding of every source and type of data, its workflows and purposes, and the data privacy regulations and ethical considerations that apply.
- IT Security
Proactively combatting the wider threats that come with greater data use, both internal and external – and in a way that does not obstruct or restrict data interactions.
- IT Architecture
The proactive planning and provision of technology resources that support the ambitious use of data, securely and cost-effectively.
There is a common thread that runs through all four of these: they can only succeed if closely aligned with the strategy of the business overall.
Data governance has to create a structure for data that supports the overall and specific ambitions of the business. It provides the foundations to meet its regulatory and legal obligations, and supports IT security. Data ethics ensures that every data interaction complies with the organisation’s legal and moral obligations. And excellence in IT architecture depends on proactively aligning resource demand, tools and cost with the organization’s objectives. Strategic alignment underpins them all.
And this is the key lesson for any business embarking on their data journe. Including those who are already in the Data Ditch. Skipping across it, or escaping it, depends on putting these four foundation stones in place first, and thoughtfully. It is demonstrably the most valuable time spent.
After all, if they are underserved or if shortcuts are taken, then this research confirms that the outcome is painfully certain. Read the report and interactive visualization here.
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