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Data can tell us interesting stories. It can make us more productive, deliver personalised customer experiences and drive innovation. Its power seems limitless. But when there is so much data available, you can run the risk of over analysing or focussing on the wrong type. So how do you avoid data just becoming a buzzword? How can it start playing a meaningful role in your business?

Let’s start with the obvious: data is nothing without a context. It is inert. Only when it is analysed in a specific framework does it become information. This is then processed and internalised by individuals to create knowledge.

In the digital world, this relationship doesn’t change. It’s up to your organisation to transform this data into knowledge, then action. That’s how you get a positive return on investment. Make your data relevant and useful by starting with these steps to create organisational change.

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1) Set your goals : To harness the full value of data, you need to ensure it is captured accurately, with the end goal in mind. So, the first step should be setting your goals. Your data strategy will depend on the business problem you’re trying to solve and the environment you work in. This will lead to better understanding the factors and variables of your analysis. Executive buy-in will be the key to success. Ensure you on-board your organisation’s leaders early so you have the right engagement from all stakeholders along the process.

2) Plan, plan, plan : As you grow your ambition of leveraging insights to benefit the business, you need to ensure you have an effective data strategy and management plan. This includes how the data will be stored and managed. You need to ensure accessibility without sacrificing security, all while aligning to current policies and regulations. Also, you need to define a data governance maturity model, including data classification and compliance policies. See here for more information and a helpful guide from Microsoft. 

3) Keep security at heart : As mentioned, you need to ensure your data is kept safe when stored, managed and in transit. With intelligent security, you can empower your organisation against cyberthreats with machine learning and automation.

4) Democratise data skills : You must ensure your whole organisation has the skills to understand data. To take advantage of new information, insights and resources, everyone needs to understand how to use data effectively. This will help build an accessible knowledge network, plus improve services and customer experiences. It’s not an easy task. But building a data skills learning plan is vital to get the best out of data and to empower employees. The Forrester report on Why Digital Literacy Matters goes in-depth on how to spread data literacy.

5) Build a feedback loop : To ensure your data insights stay relevant and agile, implement a change control process consistent across the organisation. Keep verifying your data strategy against your business plans, goals and with your executive sponsors to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Be ready to adjust. Flexibility and speed of change will determine the difference between frustration and success.

Weave data throughout your organisation : Ultimately the power of data is directly correlated to your strategy and your people. Data doesn’t belong in a different realm. It doesn’t belong to one team or silo. On the contrary, it needs to intertwine with business processes, stakeholders and policies. It needs to reach across business silos and connect together to surface the right information, at the right time. Make sure you embark on the journey as an organisation. The response from this empowerment will surprise you.

References:  Microsoft, Krizia Ceccobao, The Forrester

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