Defining a Data Strategy for Digital Business

Advantage Consulting

10 December 2020

Data is the lifeblood of the modern digital organisation; the fuel that powers more efficient processes, new products and services.

Yet, without a coherent data strategy, it can go under-utilised, its potential wasted, or cause security issues down the line. So how can firms create an effective strategy to ensure this doesn’t happen?

It’s important for any data strategy to understand the mission and how to best cultivate and interpret the data.

Chuck Brooks, principal growth strategist for cybersecurity at General Dynamics Mission Systems
For this, Brooks recommends ‘an adaptive strategy that has to be continually updated and tested in an evolving intelligent enterprise.’

Ade McCormack, founder of the Digital Readiness Institute, agrees, noting that while ‘traditionally, the subject of data strategy would really be one of data management strategy’ the focus has now changed.

Today Law Firms need a strategy for turning data into better business decisions and improved services.

Ade McCormack, founder of the Digital Readiness Institute

For some, this is a question of getting to grips with data. Stéphane Nappo, cyber-security expert for Groupe SEB, recommends applying the advice of Aristotle – Know Thyself – to your business’s data, first establishing the types of data produced and used in company activities then considering where it’s produced, received and stored. The crucial thing is to have a full understanding of ‘what kinds of data make the company live?’

By answering these questions, Nappo argues, businesses are in a better position to align their data strategy with the business strategy, then identify the data that poses the biggest regulatory and security risks. This helps the organisation prioritise these risks and ensure their data strategy and frameworks are fit for purpose, ‘designing reliable system(s), where your security strategy is a part of your data strategy.’

That’s a priority shared by Ludmila Morozova-Buss, Ph.D researcher at Capitol Technology University. ‘Make data strategy and cybersecurity strategy a priority,’ she argues, suggesting firms ‘prepare to effectively address advanced threats’ as ‘keeping up with new threats can be daunting until you consider what it takes to defend against them.’ When it comes to wider data strategy, she believes that companies should either ‘follow the industry leaders or become one’.

Others suggest that developing a modern data strategy involves looking beyond the priorities and requirements of IT.

Far too often data is seen to be the responsibility of IT. Data actually belongs to the business areas that generate and use data to make decisions, so any effective data strategy has to be made in conjunction with the business.

Andrew Robson, Chief Information Security Officer, Bentley Motors
StarCIO President, Isaac Sacolick, agrees, arguing that encouraging employees in different business units to ask challenging questions can help firms ‘prioritise the most actionable ones that can deliver business impact, and organise an agile team of data scientists, engineers, and business analysts to investigate.’ By answering these questions, organisations can build their data strategy piece by piece, exposing required data-ops improvements, any new sources required, plus associated governance tasks.

Ensuring that no data source is under-used or undiscovered is a crucial step in all of this. As Scott Schober, CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems, puts it, ‘effective CIOs cannot afford to disregard any data that feeds AI and ML systems if they wish to fundamentally improve and future-proof their business.’

Yet, a comprehensive understanding of your data and a flexible strategy to exploit it will only get you so far. ‘Digital age organisations need to be data-driven,’ says McCormack, but ‘the problem is that organisations of any sophistication rarely have a coherent enterprise data architecture and so consequently what is intended as a data lake is actually a data cesspit. As you might imagine, this is reflected in the associated business outcomes.’

The key is to combine an effective strategy with an architecture and a platform capable of bringing it all together securely, ensuring that the right data is exposed to analytics and AI. It’s the only way to transform data from a potent raw material into a source of energy for future business growth.


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