Data Strategy Creation – A Roadmap

Data Strategy creation is one of the main pieces of work that I have been engaged in over the last decade [1]. In my last article, Measuring Maturity, I wrote about Data Maturity and how this relates to both Data Strategy and a Data Capability Review. Here I wanted to step back and look at the big picture.

The exhibit above is one that I use to chart my work in Data Strategy development [2]. An obvious thing to say upfront is that this is not a trivial exercise to embark on. There are many different interrelated activities, each one of which requires experience and expertise in both what makes businesses tick and the types of Data-related capabilities and organisation designs that can better support this. These need to be woven together to form the fabric of a Data Strategy and to deliver several other more detailed supporting documents, such as Data Roadmaps, or Cost / Benefit Analyses.

I tend to often tag Data Strategy with the adjective “commercial” and commercial awareness is for me what makes the difference between a Data Technology Strategy and a true Data Strategy. The latter has to be imbued with real commercial benefits being delivered.

Several of the activities in the diagram are looked at in greater detail in my trilogy on strategy development that starts with Forming an Information Strategy: Part I – General Strategy. I have also added some new areas to my approach since writing these articles back in 2014. As previously trailed, I will be penning a more comprehensive piece on Data Strategies in coming months.

I find Data Strategy creation a very rewarding process. Turning this into Data Capabilities that add business value is even more stimulating.

Having helped 10 organisations to develop their Data Strategies, the above activities are second nature to me. There is also a logical flow (mostly from left to right) and the various elements come together like the plot of a well-written book to yield the actual Data Strategy on the far right.

Data Strategy Guide

However I can appreciate that the complexity and reach of a Data Strategy exercise may seem rather daunting to someone looking at the area for the first time. In response to such a feeling, I’d suggest taking a leaf out of what used to be my main leisure activity, rock climbing [3]. I am a pretty experienced rock climber, but if I wanted to get into some unfamiliar aspect of the sport – say Alpinism – then I would make sure to hire a guide; someone whose experience and expertise I could rely upon and from whom I could also learn.

In my opinion, Data Strategy is an area in which such a guide is also indispensable.


Addendum

It was rightly pointed out by one of my associates, Andrew Willimott, that the above roadmap above does not explicitly reference Business Strategy. This is an very important point.

Here is an excerpt from some comments I made on this subject on Quora only the other day:

A sound commercially-focussed Data Strategy must be tailored to a specific organisation, the markets they operate in, the products or services they sell, the competitive landscape, their current Data Capabilities and – most importantly – their overarching business strategy.

I had this area implicitly covered by a combination of 1.2 Documentation Review and 1.3 Business Interviews, but I agree that the connection should be more explicit. The diagrams have now been revised accordingly with thanks to Andrew.


If you would like to better understand any aspect of the Data Strategy creation process, then please get in contact via the form provided. You can also schedule a meeting with us directly, or speak to us on +44 (0) 20 8895 6826.


Notes

 
[1]
 
Often followed on by then helping to get the execution of the Data Strategy going.
 
[2]
 
I also use cut-down versions to play back progress to clients.
 
[3]
 
For example see A bad workman blames his [Business Intelligence] tools.

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