To uncover how to build the best data strategy for your business, we chat with Adam Ryan, Calligo’s Chief Data Officer for Data Strategy on what to do, what to avoid – and everything else in between…

Where to start with building a data strategy?

A data strategy provides a framework for how you acquire, organize, analyze and deliver your data to best support your business objectives. You can use a robust data strategy to escape the dreaded data ditch and avoid inadvertently falling into it.

Collaboration and transparency are key to enhancing buy-in. “The first big step when commencing on creating a data strategy is the understanding that this should be a collaborative process and not something that is developed in isolation,” Adam advises. “A data strategy will cover all areas of an organization and internal messaging is crucial to make sure everyone knows the objectives and the rationale.”

It’s rare to come across a company where there isn’t a history of data usage in some form. Most companies will be consuming and using data already and sometimes there’s an unshakeable resistance of ‘why do we need a data strategy? We’ve got this far without one.’ Adam strongly highlights the importance of showing the tangible benefits of a data strategy, and how it isn’t a ‘magpie syndrome’ of being the next shiny thing.

By showing people the benefits of building a data strategy and how it can support them in their roles, you’ll help foster an environment of collaboration. Creating stakeholder buy-in is one of the most important aspects when it comes to building a data strategy.

Using the 8 pillars to encourage stakeholder buy-in

Given the extent of what needs to be covered in a data strategy, multiple stakeholders will be impacted. It’s crucial to manage stakeholder buy-in to improve chances of success. “The most successful method we’ve found to do this is to explain the rationale behind our 8 pillars that are covered in a data strategy and why they have a collective relationship to enabling progression,” Adam explains.

The 8 pillars of data strategy are:

Data Ethics
Data Maturity
IT Architecture
IT Security
Privacy by Design (PbD)
IT Cost Management
Data Insights

Adam observes: “One stakeholder may have a different focus to another but it’s important to understand that success is a team effort and there’s a lot of interdependencies of a successful data strategy. It leads to a healthier onward working environment when considering all the interdependencies of a successful data strategy.”

Forming your data strategy with Calligo

To build a data strategy, it’s important to accurately reflect on where your company is in its data maturity. According to Adam, “These maturity models are particularly useful as they set a baseline based on evidenced feedback. People are able to recognise the behaviors that set the maturity level and why there are benefits in advancing the maturity capability level.” Calligo specializes in independently and accurately assessing your data maturity so you avoid falling into the dreaded data ditch of mistakenly classifying your company.

Through a series of interviews for all different areas of the business, Calligo incrementally increases the knowledge of individuals to the importance of other areas that may not immediately appear important to them

No data disciplines exist in isolation. There has to be a balanced approach to progression, otherwise you could create an increased risk profile in one area if another is targeted disproportionately for advancement. For example, you need to consider:

  • the resources available to contribute to the realization of the strategy.
  • likelihood of technology adoption.
  • process change needed to support the recommendations.
  • likelihood of organizational change to support the realization of the strategy (Calligo typically maps this to a 12 month period of transition, prioritizing the areas of most impact). 

What to avoid when building a data strategy

“You should avoid underplaying the holistic nature of the data strategy,” says Adam. “We often see individual areas of initiative prioritized over others that have dependencies. This typically occurs where some areas addressed by the strategy are believed to be either more advanced from a maturity perspective than reality or just that the importance of them is not understood.”

You should also be prepared to tackle the ‘boring’ side of data strategy, such as data governance. Governance underpins all aspects of data and should be seen as a foundational discipline upon which other initiatives can be built.

Timeline for building a data strategy

“The key impact to the timeline of a data strategy is the availability of the main stakeholders. Having a good understanding of significant other projects that affect their ability to engage is important. Always remember that people have their day jobs,” Adam observes. 

To remedy this, create a shared delivery plan that factors in the importance of a productive rate of delivery while minimizing dependencies.

Calligo’s typical timeline based on this approach is 4 to 8 weeks. This enables us to provide regular briefing sessions on the progression direction of the strategy to the companies we partner with. “When the final strategy is delivered it mustn’t be a surprise to the main stakeholders. They should have been able to consume most of the content throughout the process,” emphasizes Adam

It’s difficult to correctly build your own data strategy. If you need some guidance, get in touch with the experts at Calligo to kickstart your data assessment and take the first step to unleashing your data’s power.