7 mistakes organisations make when developing a data strategy.

And what you should do to avoid them.

In the third part of our data strategy blog series, we review the 7 most common mistakes we see organisations make when it comes to developing their data strategy.

Common Mistakes

And why you shouldn’t make them

Developing a data strategy takes time, investment and expertise. The last thing you want to do is get it wrong or accidentally make mistakes as you develop it. 

At Data Agility, we have supported hundreds of clients to build their data strategy so we know a thing or two when it comes to what not to do. 

We regularly work with clients who have initially attempted to develop their data strategy in-house and have come to us for assistance when they realised they didn’t have the experience or expertise to deliver it successfully. We also work with clients who recognise the need for expert support to develop their data strategy and they seek our services from the outset. We hope that by sharing the mistakes we see organisations make when developing a data strategy that you will avoid the common pitfalls. 

Mistake #1

Budget

The first mistake we commonly see organisations make is regarding their budget.  While it is understood that there will be a budget requirement to develop a data strategy, a common mistake is that organisations don’t plan for the lag between the development and endorsement of the strategy and receiving the actual budget required to start implementing it. 

Depending on your budget approval process, you may need to seek Board approval, which can further delay the process. We recommend our clients think about their budget approval process long before the data strategy project commences and look to have some budget available to get going on the implementationThat could even be enough to tide you over for a short period. 

The development and implementation of a data strategy needs momentum, and you may lose this if you don’t have the funding to at least get going when you need it.  

Mistake #2

Sponsorship

A data strategy needs buy-in across your organisation, and from all departments. A data strategy impacts all areas of the business and has ramifications on the way you do business. When the development of a data strategy is driven by the IT department, we commonly see it can fail to get traction.

The reason for this is that it often fails to have cross-organisational sponsorship and is being driven from a technology need rather than by the business to solve business issues.  

We recommend our clients find a sponsor within the business who can champion the strategy, promote buy-in across your organisation and ensure the strategy is ultimately implemented. We find this sponsor is best when in a position of authority and has a level of respect across the organisation.   

Mistake #3

Engagement

In order to truly make your data strategy successful, it’s imperative that you engage with a wide variety of departments and individuals across your organisation. You need to find out what the pain points are, and also the opportunities. We recommend our clients interview staff from the executive to the operational staff to the administrative staff, and everyone in between.

A common mistake we see organisations make is that they don’t interview enough staff or take a broad cross-section of their divisions.  Take for example an organisation that has a head office and regional or satellite offices.  If you only interview head office staff, you will miss out on the opportunity to hear the challenges faced by the regional or satellite offices.  

We recommend our clients visit their regional offices to see first hand what actually happens, how staff work, the issues they have and the opportunities for improvement.  By interviewing a wide cross-section of staff, you will have a diverse representation of current business practices and the impacts your data strategy will have.

Mistake #4

Business strategy

Another mistake organisations can make is that they develop a data strategy which is technically correct and lays out how the organisation should manage their data, yet it doesn’t align with the broader business strategy. In order for a data strategy to work, it needs to attach to the business drivers and needs to demonstrate how it will help support the broader business strategy. 

We recommend that our clients assess what’s in it for their organisation and their teams to have a new data strategy in place.  If there is going to be considerable effort to develop and implement a new data strategy, the team need to understand why they’re doing it.  If we are asking staff to work in new ways that they may view as being an increased burden, at least in the short term, then you need to make sure that they understand how it helps them and how it will impact the organisation as a whole. 

Mistake #5

Approval process

Before you commence your data strategy project, it’s important that you know what your approval process is and who needs to be involved. A common mistake we see is a project team get slowed down because they didn’t factor in the approval process or align it with when their organisation signs off new projects.

For instance, if your Board only considers new strategies and budgets at certain times of the year, ensure you know when that is so that you can present your data strategy at the right time.   

Mistake #6

Lack of expertise

After reading our data strategy series, you might be forgiven in thinking it is easy to develop and implement your own data strategy. Yet we commonly see a lack of experience and expertise underpinning the failure of these projects.

It is imperative that the team working on the data strategy deeply understand this area. They need to have experience engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, both internal and external, and they need to have the broader insight into how the strategy will help the organisation achieve its goals. They also need to be skilled at communication and selling the concept of a data strategy so that it has the best chance of being accepted by the Board, senior management team and the broader team of staff.  

Another benefit of working with an experienced data strategy team (such as the team at Data Agility) is they know all of the common mistakes that are made and how to avoid them. 

 

Mistake #7

Viable

A data strategy should be visionary. It should take you from your current state to a more optimised future state. It should improve the way you manage and apply your data and continue to improve business processes. Yet all too often we see data strategies that are so lofty in their ideas, that they can’t be afforded or implemented because it will be too much of a leap forward to achieve what has been laid out in the strategy.

Your data strategy needs to be viable and practical while also allowing for growth. You may need to break your implementation into phases so other areas of the business can implement the necessary changes that are required to take your organisation forward. This delivers value incrementally and shows everyone in your organisation what can be achieved and the benefits being realised. By taking a practical, realistic approach to your data strategy, you are more likely to get it off the ground and having a lasting positive change on your organisation. 

Coming Up Next

Developing your current state assessment

In the fourth part of our data strategy series, we will be looking at what you need to include in your current state assessment. You can see all of the articles in this series here.

The team at Data Agility are available for a no-obligation discuss about your own data strategy needs.

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