Many organizations think they have a data strategy because they have data SYSTEMS. These individual data systems are the engines of various departments, providing a point of entry and a point of reporting for one department. The sales team might use a tool such as Salesforce or SugarCRM to keep track of contacts, leads, and closes. The folks in marketing might be using a combination of Hubspot or Pardot or Google Analytics or other tools to track marketing efforts. Financials might be managed through Quickbooks, and HR data stored in a system such as WorkDay or PeopleSoft. Information on inventory and production could be in a multitude of different databases, spreadsheets, and files throughout the organization.
There is nothing wrong with this approach to data collection—departments often need autonomy to make their own decisions about how to manage their affairs. But this DOES create a problem for central management, because departmental systems are usually designed to answer a key set of departmental questions. The marketing system might be able to tell you how many clicks your website receives a week, and the sales system might tell you how many leads are being generated and how many of those leads are being converted into new customers.
These systems, however, tend not to be particularly good at answering the big picture questions related to the viability of your organization. These big picture questions are at a higher level and span many different pieces of data. For example, though the marketing system can tell you how many clicks your website has received, how do you know you are getting an overall positive return on investment for your marketing efforts? To answer this question you need to accumulate data on number of clicks to the website, how many of those clicks turn into lead and sales, and then the costs of those systems and marketing campaigns and the salaries of the people involved in managing all those processes. Answering such a question might require you to gather information from the marketing, sales, human resources and financial packages. Many organizations do not have an easy way to unify this data so they continue to make decisions by feel rather than by data.
Today we live in a winner take all economy empowered by the leverage that technology provides for rapid growth. The organizations that grow the quickest are the ones that are able to spot key trends before anyone else – trends in the market, trends in sales, trends in production. Those that can respond instantly to changes in trends will be able to scale quickly and capture more market share and those that cannot will slowly wither away under competitive pressures.
A data strategy is a plan to turn all your organizational INFORMATION into true insight. This involves looking to the future, determining what you want to get out all the data you collect, and then building the systems and processes to turn that data into data views and visualizations that will help you spot key trends and make effective decisions.
Often it is difficult to marshal internal resources to move down the path of a data strategy. Most organizations know they need to have dedicated information technology support staff to run their data systems. These support staff are good at what they do, but much of their time is consumed by merely keeping production systems running and satisfying end users. The information technology staff often have technology as their primary concern, not the bigger picture of the business concerns that are driving the technology investment.
We at Synthelize have years of experience in helping organizations to develop and implement a data strategy. We have developed a five step process which focuses on your particular needs and goals and helps you to choose—and implement—the right technologies and processes to gather, integrate, and visualize data. Contact us and let's get a start on developing your company's data future.