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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 by HSO’s Head of Data & Analytics, Doug McConchie for part two of our special three part data strategy series.

And in part two we take things on from  the creation of your data strategy to landing it within the business. We discuss how you get it into peoples consciousness, the types of people you may need to help instil your data strategy as part of the culture, and the things you need to think about to ensure it is viewed as a business imperative.

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

Michael Lonnon

In this edition of the Dynamics Matters podcast we’re on part two of the data strategy miniseries. Once you’ve defined your data strategy and are rolling it out, what’s important in its ongoing success is how you land it. How do you bring the business on side? I know that’s a big topic, but in your opinion what sort of things would you be looking to do?

Doug McConchie

Well, a data strategy isn’t really that dissimilar to a lot of other large programmes of work. And it’s not that dissimilar to a transformation programme either. Think about those contexts, you basically get into the traditional areas of management control and performance measurement and it’s not very exciting, but it’s very practical and true. Think about your data strategy implementation in terms of a large-scale programme, which you want to deliver over the next two or three years, think about some of the changes you want to make to your organisation in terms of cultural change, and the transformation which they need to go through. So how you’re going to manage that and think through from a practical point of view, how the various structures follow through to implement this data strategy, and potentially even change so that your data strategy fits better with your organisation.

Michael Lonnon

There’s quite a lot there.

Doug McConchie

I didn’t say it was easy.

Michael Lonnon

An important element is creating a data culture – that’s really what the data strategy is aiming to do – to create a culture of better management of data and part of that is about bringing users on side. People not necessarily at the CEO level, but those who are generating, managing and using data, how do you bring users on side when it comes to data strategy?

Doug McConchie

I’m a firm believer in a top down and a bottom-up approach. So a very useful role to have on board, from a top down perspective, is a chief data officer. Not many organisations have one today, in implementing a data strategy, maybe consider hiring or nominating somebody into a Chief Data Officer role, equally know that a chief data officer needs to be supported by other key people, typically, the data strategy leads or heads of centre of excellence around some of the reporting and architecture, they probably also need some data governance people to support them as well. So those are more the sort of the top downs but from the bottom up, the way you get people on board and to buy into change is by showing them what success looks like. This is where, as you implement value into the business from your data strategy, you will get people excited about what’s delivered. You’ll get people wanting to pick up new skills needed to use the technologies you’re brought in. You’re going to start a wave of action within all levels of the organisation. As people get excited about the new prospects your data strategy is going to bring to them in their day-to-day roles through the top down and bottom up. That’s how success happens, and culture changes over time.

Michael Lonnon

Does the size of the organisation, or type of organisation, dictate the types of data roles that you’re bringing in to fill those elements of bringing users on side?

Doug McConchie

It does to a large degree. I mentioned in the previous podcast, one of the key outputs from a data strategy is the Target Operating Model. When we think through what the appropriate Target Operating Model is to deliver a data strategy, size and capability is a key part of it. Some of the structures we typically introduce and maybe are overblown if you’re a smaller, medium sized organisation, but certainly in the larger organisations, there’s some key structures which will definitely help. Some form of data strategy review board is needed. A data strategy review board is the overarching responsible unit within an organisation to oversee and approve data initiatives and understand the lessons learned as the organisation goes through its data maturity learning curve, that’s a really key one and typically this is led by the chief data officer. Underneath that review board, there’s the data governance council. As the name suggests they look after and manage data standards and quality of data, they look around the data processes needed. Equally, we talked upfront about the data strategy roadmap, that typically has a programme board around it, like any other programme board and they’re responsible for the day-to-day delivery of the individual projects and the work streams, to make sure that each of those initiatives deliver on time and in full. There’s other structures as well like centres of excellence around reporting, centres of excellence around data architecture, those are all useful units to think about introducing into your organisation. Lastly, something more specific around design, architecture, best practice, and review of ways of working and structures within your organisation so some form of design authority is useful in rolling out a successful data strategy. In smaller, medium sized organisations, rather than having a unit with multiple people doing those roles, maybe think about one or two people who would pick up aspects of those organisational units and be responsible for working through the same concepts those structures would normally be doing.

Michael Lonnon

I was going to ask, there’s a lot you’ve mentioned there, and most organisations listening to this won’t have that structure or budget to fund those. Can you do them in part or is it as you identified, it’s about giving it the attention, potentially having individuals in multiple roles?

Doug McConchie

It is about giving people the responsibility to think through the same topics and have the same remit as those organisational structures would have. Large multinationals, absolutely, they could go out and set up all of those structures and that would help them be successful, and then have multiple people in different roles within each of those structures. Small and medium sized organisation, have one or two people within a data team who could pick up the same sort of work but on a smaller scale, but it’ll be fit for purpose for their organisation, still thinking about the architecture, still thinking about governance, still thinking about the programme, still thinking about how they’re using Excel for reporting or analytics, still think about whether data is on track. Those are all the same concepts, which one or two people could think about, or multiple people in individual units.

Michael Lonnon

You’ve got your strategy in place, you’ve identified the right people and the right teams in order to take that forward into the different business units. So, you’ve got a bit of momentum, but, as you say, data strategies are long term, they’re not short, they’re not quick, these things keep on going actually, they probably never really finish. How would you maintain the momentum of that data strategy once it’s landed, once people are starting to buy into it? How can you keep it going in the direction you want it to?

Doug McConchie

Part of the mindset is one of continuous improvement. So just as other programmes in other areas of the organisation have that same concept of how we enable continuous improvement and learning, data and data related activities they too need to come under that remit. Some of that will be about skilling people up, getting them on board in using the various technologies which you have in your organisation. Continuous improvement means looking at your reporting; is it as mature and as performant as it needs to be? Does it just look at what happened last week, last month? Is it also looking forward into some aspects of forecasting, in some aspects of machine learning and artificial intelligence and so forth. Could we take it to the next level of performance? When you look at aspects of your data architecture how sophisticated is it? Do you have the right data models? Are those models robust? Do you have data catalogues? Do you think about master data, the list goes on. There’s always room to take your organisation to the next level of performance.

Michael Lonnon

I guess that’s where having the top-down approach of exec buy in to the data strategy is = important because without that it’s difficult to keep momentum if you’re doing it by yourself in isolation. If you are the head of data or you’re the person responsible for it, it’s quite hard for you to keep pushing it if you don’t have that exact support.

Doug McConchie

Absolutely the chief data officer is the person who is living and breathing the data strategy and its implementation. They are also the person with the seat at the top table, listening to the hopes, aspirations, frustrations from his fellow exec and can take those messages back to the data team, so that they those messages get incorporated into that continuous improvement plan. This will help the data strategy stay refreshed and data strategy stay aligned to the business mission, and it continues to deliver value back to the business.

Summary

Gaining exec level support, or representation through a Chief Data Officer type role, is essential to ensure you have the buy-in to land your data strategy with impact. But it’s not only exec support you need. Because those messages coming down from other stakeholders in the business must be communicated and implemented through your data team, so you also require the right people in the right roles to ensure the impact of landing is followed by the momentum you need for long-term data value and success.

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

 

 

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