4 tips for launching a successful data strategy

4 tips for launching a successful data strategy

Data. I find it somewhat astounding that four little letters are having such a profound impact on our social, political, and corporate worlds. Data is quickly becoming the world’s currency, which puts real pressure on CIOs to develop a high value strategy for their businesses.

Most companies are teeming with data, but for a variety of reasons, have not been able to put it to good use. A bald allusion to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner comes to mind, “Data, data everywhere, but not a drop to use.” Which data should we collect? Which department “owns” the data? How do we design the right architecture for securing the data and making it readily available? How do we change our culture so that our business leaders start making decisions based on the data?

Would that I had the answer to these questions, but I do not. What I do have, thanks to my insightful and generous CIO networks are some smart thoughts about how to get a data strategy off the ground. What follows are some valuable ideas, culled from recent conversations, that I hope will prove valuable to your own data strategy.

Begin with one business problem

Sherry Aaholm’s strategy in creating a data-driven business was to start with cleaning only the data that would solve a clear and precise business problem. “If I went around this company and said, ‘I need all of the manufacturing data to be clean and in one place,’ people would say, ‘That sounds really expensive, and it would take me 100 years,’” says Aaholm, who was just promoted from CIO to Chief Digital Officer of Cummins, a Fortune 200 engine manufacturer.

Sherry Aaholm, CIO, CumminsCummins

Sherry Aaholm, CIO, Cummins

Instead, Aaholm took a big opportunity, using analytics to drive down warranty costs, and cleaned up only that data. “We identified 50 key sources of relevant data and whittled that down to 20, cleaned it, put it into a data lake and made it available, but only to solve customer warranty problems,” she says. “When we demonstrated that we could solve that big problem, people started believing in the data and asking for more.”

Start with a straw man

Your business partners know that data can be powerful, and they know that they want it, but they do not always know, specifically, what data they need and how to use it. The IT organization knows how to collect, structure, secure, and serve up the data, but they are not typically responsible for defining how best to leverage the data. This gap between serving up the data and using the data can be as wide as the Ancient Mariner’s ocean (sorry), over which the CIO needs to build a bridge.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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