Start here: Now implement your data strategy

Getting your data strategy signed-off by the organisation is a great moment. But it is not the end of the task - it is actually where the work really begins. Lisa Allen of DAMA (UK) identifies the critical steps you need to take next.
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But the truth is, this is where your journey really starts. Implementing your data strategy is about making it a reality. It is the most important thing you can do. So where do you start?

You need a plan!

First, you need to develop your plan. Your data strategy impacts right across your organisation, embracing your data, technology, people and processes. Your plan needs to cover all these areas:

  • Policies and processes: You’ve most likely included your data principles in the data strategy which set out your aims for your data. For example, you want your data to be secured and protected. But don’t worry if your data strategy didn’t include principles – you can develop them now because they form a useful framework within which to look at your organisation’s polices and processes.

Look to set up a virtual team, assigning accountability for each data principle that drives all the data policies and processes across your organisation. That way you can spread the work and gain bu- in at the same time. Just be sure to be clear on who is accountable and dates for actions.

As a team, you’ll want to start by reviewing what policies and processes you currently have and align them to the data principles. When you do this, you may notice there are some data principles that have lots of policies and processes. This plethora may not be a good thing if it makes it hard to comply. You may want to rationalise these down to a manageable number. Alternatively, there may be areas where you are missing policies and you will need to fill the gaps.

When you have completed this activity, don’t forget to communicate when you have published your policies. Not many people will activity choose to read them, so you must make your policies as easy as possible to comply with, for example, by building the policies into IT systems or processes.

  • Technology: Does your technology enable delivery of your strategy? If it doesn’t meet your data needs, how does your technology need to change? Your current systems may not comply with the policies you’ve written and agreed, or they don’t enable you to serve your data as flexibly as you need in order to meet your organisation’s ambitions. You need to work with your IT department to ensure the data elements are built into the technology plan. Be clear on your outcomes and what you will achieve and when.
  • People: They are key to your transformation. Their skills and training need to keep pace with your data strategy’s aspirations if you are to ensure you deliver your business strategy. You might consider reviewing what capabilities you need compared to the skills and training of people today. How are you going to fill the gaps you’ve identified? Are you looking to up-skill or recruit?  You can show this journey through a capability model. This will show the skills and capabilities required against your organisation’s current status. Set out how you intend to fill these gaps and when.
  • Data: Last, but not least, is your data. Is it fit for your future? Is it structured in the right way? Does its quality meet your requirements? Do you have all you require or do you need to consider alternative methods of data collection, like crowd-sourcing. Can you get more from your current data by using machine learning? These are all things you should consider when developing the elements of your data plan. Again, define the outcomes you want to achieve and specify the projected timescales.

You’ll now have a plan for delivery over the next few years covering your policies, technology, people and data. Make sure you track your progress over time, celebrating successes as you go. Keep coming back to the data strategy and the outcomes you are enabling.

Successfully implementing your data strategy is a long-term game, but one worth the wait if you are to transform your organisation’s data capability in order to enable and realise your business strategy.

Lisa Allen is a data leader, member of the DataIQ 100 2020 edition and a committee member of the Data Management Association (DAMA) UK @I_am_LisaAllen @damauk

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