5 Questions to Ask on the Road to Data Excellence – Part II
In the second part of this three-part series, we will take a look at how to establish the foundations for a consistent approach to data across the organisation and a data-driven culture. As with the first post, which addressed data skills and literacy, I’ve provided a true or false set of questions you can ask yourself to gain a sense of where your organisation is on your journey to information excellence.
Are we talking the same language?
In any field of endeavour it is really helpful if people share the same terms of reference and use common vocabulary. This greatly improves communication and facilitates effective collaboration. If there is an organisationally consistent view of data, this will help to ensure those working with data are talking the same language. Data architecture supplies the taxonomies, data models, workflows and quality standards that are needed to make sense of data across the organisation.
Data itself has a similar requirement in that the various data formats in use across the organisation need to make sense to one another to construct information assets. An information asset can be defined as "a body of knowledge that is organized and managed as a single entity. Like any other corporate asset, an organization's information assets have financial value. That value of the asset increases in direct relationship to the number of people who are able to make use of the information."1
The discipline of data integration enables the organisation to “ingest, transform, combine and provide data across the spectrum of information types (both within enterprises and beyond) in order to meet the data consumption requirements of applications and business processes." 2
Data architects have a lot on their hands to meet those requirements today. The demands of digital business and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data have made data integration both more important and more complex simultaneously. To tackle these challenges, data architects are exploring how to use search, AI and machine-learning capabilities to make data architecture something that is discovered rather than constructed.
True or false questions:
- We understand our data across the business
- We know how to construct and manage information assets
- We have a documented data architecture
- We are developing a data architecture
Do we have a data-driven culture?
Establishing a consistent understanding of data is important, but to make use of it effectively across the organisation means addressing the culture of the organisation. A good definition for a data-driven organisation is “one that cultivates a culture where data is valued as much as intuition and experience; where data is visible and accessible to everybody. A data driven organisation uses technology to communicate data in a clear and approachable way. In this kind of organisation decision-making is a collaborative process and metrics are set based on very specific business goals."3
Data is only valuable if it can be used to develop relevant, insightful and actionable information. We will take the most valuable actions when data reveals opportunity or identifies risk.
Data-driven organisations all value data as an asset but tend to have their own way of thinking about data. One very large, data-driven organisation I am familiar with uses the term "measures" instead of data. Thinking about data in terms of measuring process, and what that means in terms of decisions, allows business teams to operate in a data driven way. In this company, measures are a way of life – every aspect of the business is measured and that way of thinking is deeply embedded in the culture.
Developing a data-driven culture is another large body of work. However, the payoff is substantial; not only will the teams working with data be far more effective, so will the data itself!
True or false questions:
- We understand how to use metrics effectively to support data-driven business
- We understand what data is most relevant to business success
- We use technology effectively to support data-driven business
- We have a data-driven culture
1 TechTarget http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/information-assets, 2013
2 Gartner, Modernize Your Data Integration Architecture for Digital Business by Combining Data Delivery Styles
3 Econsultancy report, “Data Driven Culture," 2013