Apr 19, 2023
Feb 19, 2024

What makes a good Data Strategy? [our 5-step framework]

Unlock the secrets of an effective data strategy. Discover how to align, assess, prioritise, and implement change all while navigating the complexities of data-driven success.

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In a world increasingly shaped by data and technology, we hear the same problems time and again of siloed data, issues with data quality, a lack of trust in data, a lack of insights, and the questioning of the value of data initiatives.

A data strategy is the key document to help you overcome these obstacles, aligning everyone on the path forward. But how do you go about building a data strategy that overcomes these barriers?

We’ve helped many businesses with developing a data analytics strategy and in this blog we will walk you through the five key steps in our data strategy framework to set you up for success.

  1. Define your future state
  2. Conduct a Data Capability Assessment
  3. Prioritise Initiatives
  4. Building a Data Strategy Roadmap
  5. Implement Change Management

What is Data Strategy?

Imagine that you’ve bought an empty plot of land, eager to build your very first house. Now, would you immediately order wood, nails, and windows, and start hammering away without a clear plan? Not likely. Without a strategic approach, the result might not resemble a house at all.

So, what's the smarter move? You'd start by engaging an architect who'd meticulously plan every detail, from the foundation to the choice of tiles.

This is the essence of strategy — a comprehensive, big-picture plan that ensures your focus on what truly matters and guides you toward your ultimate goal.

Without this plan it is easy to get distracted and end up with bright shiny object syndrome and end up spending resources on tactical projects or technology that doesn’t end up delivering.

Your data driven business strategy is your foundation, setting out the long-term plan for everyone to follow. Itis a key document in any annual planning, digital, technology or AI transformation.

Step 1 - Define your future state

The first step in developing a data analytics strategy is to define where you want to be heading, what is your ideal future state? This should align to your overall business strategy and goals. This ensures that what you are delivering is of value to the business and sets you up for success.

If you don’t do this, you run the risk of wasting time and resources delivering projects that the business doesn’t value and eroding the faith and trust in data throughout the business.

How do you align your data driven business strategy with your overall strategy?

  1. Understand the overall business strategy priorities and pinpoint the role of data in supporting them
  2. Interview key stakeholders at the exec level and strategic workstream leads to understand what they are trying to accomplish and the barriers
  3. Define your ideal future state for data based on the goals
  4. Ensure when you complete the assessment the overall goals are front and centre
Step 2 - Conduct a Data Capability Assessment

Once you have visibility of your business goals and ideal future state, you need to understand the current state of data within the business. This ensures that you set realistic goals and build a roadmap (more on that later) that bridges the gap over time.

What does a Data Capability Assessment look like?

A data maturity assessment should deep dive into five core areas that support each of your strategic goals, they are:

  • Data – what data is available, how is it collected, and how good is it?
  • Process – do we have the right processes in place to use data effectively?
  • Governance – do we have a framework to govern the use of data?
  • Capability & Culture – do we have the right skills and champions in the business?
  • Technology – do we have the right technology to support our goals and set us up for an AI future?

Analysing these five critical elements of data will provide a full picture of the maturity of data within your business. It will enable you to understand the gaps and map out the actions that you need to take when building a data strategy.

Step 3 - Prioritise Initiatives

Now, the third step is about prioritisation. The Data Capability Assessment will paint a picture of the current state of data in your business, combining this will your ideal future state for data in the business will identify the initiatives to bridge the gap.

However, the list of initiatives can seem daunting and without prioritising them they can mean that you focus on the wrong thing. The best way to prioritise is using the value vs. complexity matrix, this will highlight the key initiatives that will deliver value quickly and should come first building a data strategy, as they represent the best value to your business.

However, there are a couple of other elements you need to consider:

  • Dependencies – sometimes one initiative is dependent on another
  • Resources available – this may make initiatives harder or easier to achieve
  • Business Priorities – sometimes these need to take priority over the quick wins
Step 4- Building a Data Strategy Roadmap

The Data Strategy Roadmap is like a step-by-step plan to make your data driven business strategy happen. It breaks big goals into smaller tasks, showing you how to go from where you are to where you want to be.

This plan helps everyone in the business understand when things will happen, keeps track of progress, checks if we're doing well, and makes sure we have what we need along the way.

What should a roadmap include?

  • Align the data driven business strategy with the data workstreams
  • Highlight the resources and actions required
  • Identify dependencies
  • Outline the timeline and budget required
Step 5 - Implement Change Management

You’ve got the plan and roadmap. You’re set right?! Wrong!

Often the most overlooked element when building a data strategy, but the most critical is change management. Without managing change within the business your grand plans will most likely fail to deliver.

So, how do you go about managing change?

  • Buy-in at the Top: People at the top set the standards that others follow. To deliver your roadmap people at the top of the business need to champion your plan and help you by leading through example
  • Communication: to bring everyone on the journey you must speak to them about the following:
    o  What is happening?
    o  Why is it happening?
    o  What are the benefits for them and the business?
    o  What is expected of them?
    o  What is the impact on them?
  • Processes: ensuring they have the right processes and structures to support the adoption
  • Training & Upskilling: ensure that you arm everyone with the right skills to be successful and adapt to the new technology, processes, and best practices. A key element is considering Data Literacy training.
  • Measure Success: ensure you measure progress and communicate the benefits widely to increase the use of data within the business

Your data driven business strategy is a key foundation for your business, without this long-term plan, you are likely to waste time and money and not deliver to your overall business goals.

Follow the five steps in our data strategy framework to ensure you produce a data strategy that delivers value.

Here's a key point to remember: Just as the world and technology evolve, so should your data strategy. Regularly review and adapt—it's not a 'set and forget' exercise. Embrace change to keep your strategy dynamic and effective.

Download our Mastering Data Strategy Guide

Ready to leverage your data for growth?

Download our 'Mastering Data Strategy' guide now.

This comprehensive PDF is packed with strategies to align your data with business objectives, steps to gain stakeholder support, and tactics for thriving in a changing business landscape.

Don't miss out on these actionable insights – download your free copy today and start crafting a data strategy that truly transforms your business!