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Intro

Welcome everyone to the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m your host Michael Lonnon, and today I’m joined once again by HSOs Head of Data & Analytics, Doug McConchie.

Doug joins me for part one of a special 3-part data strategy series.

Now, you likely already know the value of data. But how advanced organisations are in taking advantage of their data varies greatly, and some are at the very beginning of their data journey.

And so we kick this three part data strategy series off by discussing where you should begin when building your data strategy.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon

We’re talking about data strategy as part of our mini-series, and I think it’s always important for any organisation or anyone involved in data to be thinking how do I approach it? Where do I begin? For anybody out there who is putting together their strategy, where do you think would be a good starting point?

Doug McConchie

The key place really to start is thinking about what my business is trying to achieve. We have to start with the business strategy itself. Then the data strategy needs to align to it. The data strategy is there to enable and support the success of the business strategy.

Michael Lonnon

Let me take a step back and ask, why is it important to have a data strategy at all?

Doug McConchie

The key reason is you want to have the best chance of success that your data will support the business in its mission and achieve its business goals. In order to do that, it’s very useful to have a plan, arrange your resources, from data through to people, technology, and processes. This all in a way so that they are nicely aligned to support the delivery of your business strategy. That effectively is what the data strategy does, it translates what is important around the use of your data and your data related activities that will support the business in its mission and purpose.

Michael Lonnon

Data, therefore, is underpinning the success of a business?

Doug McConchie

It’s underpinning and is increasingly at the heart of making a business successful in the delivery of its strategy,

Michael Lonnon

Do organisations realise it has this fundamental role to play?

Doug McConchie

I think a number of organisations realise it, but there’s still a lot of organisations playing catch up. The other thing to say, even if you do realise it, and you actually have gone through the effort of actually formulating a data strategy, you also need to implement and revisit it. It’s not a one-off event. It’s an ongoing activity.

Michael Lonnon

Somebody said to me the other day talking about digital transformation and technology transformation and I think is really apt they said it’s never finished, or it’s never over, the programme continues. It changes as the business changes, isn’t that, right?

Doug McConchie

Absolutely, it needs to be continuously realigned. Success on the delivery of it needs to be continuously monitored and celebrated too.

Michael Lonnon

So, when you’re putting these frameworks together, what sort of things should be included within that strategy?

Doug McConchie

Within a data strategy it is quite useful to follow a consistent framework. The framework that HSO use is one where we focus on reviewing a couple of things. We need to think about the people and the capabilities of those people. Whether we have enough of them and whether the people are able to support the delivery of strategy effectively. We need to think about technology. Do we have the right technologies, are those technologies in tune with what we’re trying to achieve? Do they support the activities which we have within our data strategy roadmap? Business processes in particular those related to data activities. How you govern those processes, and how you actually govern data and the data related activities of your organisation that’s really important. Then actually the data itself? What sources of data do you have? What’s your aspirations around using that data, how are you going to get value from that data? Those are the five key things people, process, governance, technology, and data.

Michael Lonnon

I know those are some fairly considerable activities you need to think about. You’re not going to be going at a data strategy alone are you going to be bringing people in with you?

Doug McConchie

It is about aligning the business and the business key stakeholders and the management team down to actually making it operational. Who are the people on the ground who are going to be making these various data related activities happen? That also includes bringing in external partners to support them as well in the delivery of that. It’s bringing all of those people together in a consistent format, so that, ultimately, the data strategy is deployed. As part of teasing out the data strategy, effectively, we come up with a Target Operating Model as well, which will bring those people together so that everything works efficiently and effectively to be successful.

Michael Lonnon

As part of that strategy, you have your framework together, following the five key elements, you’ve then got to sell it in. So as part of the strategy, you’ve also got include what’s going to happen or what’s going to change as a result of the different things that I’m proposing,

Doug McConchie

It needs to be sold to the senior stakeholders and the people who are implementing it on the ground. Equally it’s not a one-off exercise to sell something in as well, because a data strategy might take three years to potentially implement. It’s an ongoing communications exercise to inform people where you are in that in those three years, to identify whether things are going well to shout about the successes and the value that each of those various drops of value have brought. To keep everybody informed as I said, the organisation changes and evolves, particularly over a three-year period so, the strategy will likely need to be reshaped and refined. So that communication needs to include the updates and the changes and improvements, which are made over the journey.

Michael Lonnon

A lot of what’s in the framework is not only going to be a physical change of some sort it’s also going to be largely a communicative based elements of what it is you’re proposing.

Doug McConchie

It’s that communication is best tailored to the specific audiences. I mentioned our Target Operating Model, which focuses on the organisational structures. Another aspect of a well implemented and thought through data strategy is that there’s a stakeholder Impact Assessment, which is also done, and the communications plan which is focused on each of those stakeholders.

Michael Lonnon

As part of that you’re talking about discussing it with execs, who are perhaps not as familiar with the purpose of data, the value of data and the elements, you’re putting within your data strategy framework, you’re almost reflecting the language within this strategy to what they understand it to be, which is, by and large, a business-oriented set of language.

Doug McConchie

It’s a business-oriented set of language equally it’s a business-oriented set of goals. You don’t implement any new technology or any new sort of solution, if it doesn’t add some pretty fundamental business value, identifying that why it’s important. What it’s going to bring is the language you need to use for those stakeholders, because that’s what we deliver.

Michael Lonnon

When you’re putting together your framework, are there any potential pitfalls that may happen later, as a result of you not doing something at this particular stage of set up?

Doug McConchie

There are many pitfalls which have happened in the world of data. Let me pick out a few which sometimes come along, but can all be avoided, I hasten to add. Very often, people tend to think that an IT project or data project takes multiple years, and therefore, by the time it gets delivered, the world will have changed that Big Bang delivery approach that is a pitfall, it is better to break that big bang into achievable bits and demonstrate some drops of value along the journey instead of waiting for it all to come in three years. People also tend to rush off to get the new and shiny, and they haven’t tested whether that new piece of technology or a piece of new data science has the capability. It could be they rush off and say I want some of that and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth testing it first. So do a few proof of values or proof of concepts to actually test that these new shiny things will actually deliver the value you’re hoping for before rushing off and implementing a major programme. So again, trying to think through and test things so that people aren’t disappointed because what you want is a successful deployment with your data. Slicing them up so you can test that you are delivering successfully is all the right sort of thing to do.

Summary

The first thing to note when building your data strategy is that there is no end point. Through a process of review and refinement it will continue adding value.

And when putting your data strategy together there’s two important points to note.

The first is that the ability of your data strategy to deliver value, links with people’s willingness to embrace it. So where appropriate involve other part of the business because if they feel represented, the more willing they will be to follow your strategy.

The second is to define what success look like. This will give you your point of focus to align your KPIs around. It also provides the measurement with which to report activities back to the business.

I hope you enjoyed part one of the data strategy series, keep an eye out for part two coming to hso.com/dynamics-matters very soon.

 

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