Data

Delivering a data strategy in the cauldron of BAU

This is the fifth in a series of ten blogs concerning 'Data', written by Caroline Carruthers, Data Expert from Carruthers and Jackson. This blog looks at developing a data strategy whilst the organisation continues to operate.


Caroline Carruthers | 11 February 2019

QA Group is working in close partnership with Carruthers and Jackson to deliver consultancy and learning interventions to help executives, senior stakeholders and the wider organisation understand how to deliver transformational value from data. The following is part of a series of ten blogs by Caroline Carruthers, re-published with permission especially for QA's customers and for any other organisation seeking revolutionary opportunities from the best use of data.


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One of the most difficult tasks for the new CDO is developing a Data Strategy whilst the organisation continues to operate, (and must continue to operate) using and abusing data, continuing with bad habits around data - and often with a lack of governance and planning. This has been likened to performing open heart surgery on a runner while they are in the middle of a marathon, in reality it's more like patching them up, giving them water to keep them going and a clear map to get them to the end of the race. In most situations for a new CDO, the organisation probably feels that it has been operating quite happily without this new person for a very long while. So, for the new CDO it may feel like they are sitting in the corner talking to themselves. Alternatively the CDO may be met with comments like "Yes, we tried that before and it didn't work" or "IT/Finance/Procurement/Marketing (delete as appropriate) won't like you doing that", or my personal favourite, "that's not how we do that here".

What is the context of Business As Usual? In most cases, (unless the organisation is a start-up), it will be:

  • A legacy data environment: siloes of data, multiple records, 'duplicates', weak data governance, no useful meta data, heavy MI and no BI.
  • Legacy systems: burning platforms, bespoke developments, hard to maintain and manage, reporting systems remote from end-users, no true data management systems.
  • Legacy business processes: evolved over time, limited by technology and data available at the point in time, containing many work-arounds.
  • Multiple suppliers: of software and systems.
  • Legacy IT department: focused on building stuff rather than delivering and supporting software-as-a-service, internal networks as opposed to cloud.
  • Legacy 'transformation' process: based on project governance and waterfall, struggling with agile and innovation. Not able to adapt to transformation being data driven rather than technology driven.

 

The task for the new CDO is how to steer their way through this bubbling cauldron and deliver a data strategy. One approach is to break the task down into two parts:

An Immediate Data Strategy (IDS), a tactical approach to deliver support for BAU, gain quick wins and temporary fixes and to prepare the way for the second part. The additional benefit of the IDS is the delivery of incremental value to the organisation through its data, avoiding the hype-cycle on the way, (the next article deals with this in more detail).

The second part is the Target Data Strategy (TDS), the strategic approach. The new CDO cannot sit back and deliver the TDS over a two to three year window, the organisation will probably be expecting some results now, so it is just as important to set realistic expectations as it is to provide some tactical delivery through the IDS. One piece of advice, don't call these tactical deliveries 'Projects' instead refer to them as 'Initiatives', this might engender a more agile approach.

The IDS should listen to the organisation's data pain and try to deliver high profile quick wins. The tactical initiatives of the IDS should blend into the strategy of the TDS, and not run down a rabbit hole or blind alley. The IDS should help build up the narrative and vision of the TDS.

The six key elements of the IDS could be:

  1. Stability and rationalisation of the existing data environment.
  2. Data culture and governance.
  3. Existing and immediate data and IT development projects.
  4. Data exploitation and integration.
  5. Data performance, quality, integrity, assurance and provenance.
  6. Data security (especially with GDPR in mind).

 

Whilst the new CDO is delivering the IDS they should be pushing the TDS through business engagement, the organisation needs to prepared, ready and believe in the changes that are coming. The CDO should also be using the IDS to show the 'art of the possible' to a data illiterate business to help the business engage with the new data possibilities. Through the IDS they should be running proof of concepts, feasibility studies, Data Science initiatives and building a narrative around the vision of the TDS for all levels of the business.

Finally, six tips on how to succeed using the IDS and TDS approach:

  1. Use internal communications to sell the vision, don’t allow a vacuum to form.
  2. Seek every opportunity to communicate the vision. Do not be frightened of becoming a data bore.
  3. Socialise the data visons and the changes that could be coming, especially the controversial ideas, locate the data champions to support you.
  4. Engage the organisation's leadership and find your senior sponsors, they will be crucial.
  5. If you can't explain it, you're doing something wrong, "it's me, not you".
  6. Win hearts and minds, often a good argument is not enough to win the day.

 

Next week –'Avoiding the Hype cycle'.

About QA Group

QA helps individuals and organisations achieve their potential through world-class Learning Strategy and Solutions. This includes: training and certification, innovative Talent Solutions that solve both business critical skills and capability gaps, Business Transformation solutions, enabling change and transformation through engagement and education of workforces, and Managed Learning Services. In addition, QA provides consultancy, apprenticeships and post graduate degrees on a range of technical, business and leadership subjects. With over 22 UK training centres – including Apprenticeships, Consulting and Cyber Academies – and a range of online learning options, QA offers an unparalleled set of learning solutions to both private and public sector organisations.

About Carruthers and Jackson

In the world we live in, data is recognised as an asset but organisations are still struggling with how to drive the true value from it. We look to all the exciting advances being made around innovations like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (augmented intelligence), but if organisations don't get their data right first, they are just building houses of cards. Carruthers and Jackson was set up to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

For more information on the products and services Carruthers and Jackson offer, please visit www.carruthersandjackson.com

 

Caroline Carruthers

Caroline Carruthers

Data Expert | Carruthers and Jackson

Caroline Carruthers was the first Group Director for Data Management for the Lowell Group and was the first Chief Data Officer for Network Rail. She has been a data cheerleader for more years than she can remember, and is a strong advocate of getting the basics right, and as such she adheres to the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid) in her approach to even the most complex issues. She is passionate about technology, and as a trustee for CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), she champions a growing professionalism of data and information-related disciplines so we can achieve 'data nirvana' a bit quicker.
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