Too few organisations have a mature data culture, and as a result, are missing opportunities.
Maturity, according to the Oxford English language dictionary, means having fully developed powers. When it comes to enterprise data, many organisations possess high levels of data, but not the power to extract value from that data. Creating a mature data culture that can really analyse and work with the data requires a focus on simplification. Data processes, skills development and the right infrastructure must be in place to ensure all areas of the organisation can use the data effectively. This will then benefit the customer and the organisation.
“We see systems that have been in place for years and years, and they create reports that are not read,” says Tim Kent, Adatis director. Although an unread report may not sound dangerous, it is a sign of an organisation with a low data maturity level, which can lead to risks across the organisation. Technology analyst house Gartner reports that businesses that have not developed a mature data culture: “struggle to deal with poor data quality, inconsistent processes and poor coordination across the enterprise.” This leads to reputational risk or liability, the World Economic Forum found in its report New Paradigm for Business of Data. According to Gartner, 87.5% of organisations, globally, have low data maturity.
Without data maturity, organisations cannot exploit the information they hold and discover competitive advantages. In addition, these organisations can often suffer from inconsistent services and processes. As technology analysts Forrester finds, data provides organisations with a valuable trail of evidence, but making effective use of that trail is often difficult. “At a major fast-moving consumer goods organisation we found that the data was just not fit for purpose,” says Adatis Commercial Director, Martin Philpott.
In its report on data maturity, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) discovered that the lack of data maturity was often the result of organisational issues, which prevented the delivery of a business strategy, and as a result hampered the development of data maturity.
Günter Richter, Adatis Head of Business Consulting says poor alignment between elements of the business is a common cause of low data maturity. For example, Richter finds finance, revenue-generating and product-focused arms of an organisation need to be aligned, which will lead to improved data sharing and therefore maturity. “In some organisations, you get different levels of maturity, and you need to bring them all together.” Philpott adds: “You need a culture in an organisation which eradicates the desire to hoard data.”
Gartner identifies that limited budgets, a lack of vision, low skill levels, poor strategic planning and deployment as well as out of date infrastructure are common causes of low data maturity. In such cases, Gartner says businesses are often tied to traditional, reporting focused BI platforms, and need to move to an integrated platform in order to understand their data and increase usage.
Creating a mature data culture
Business technology leaders are regularly discovering that the purpose of the organisation is vital to the development of the desired cultural outcomes. Just as recruits and employees are increasingly aligned to an organisation with a purpose that they care about, so the business data must also be working towards the same purpose. “The data has to be purposeful, and you have to get that data out to people to drive actions,” the CIO of a major energy organisation says of how people and data purpose are connected. She goes on to say the business must understand that the data is part of the business culture. Examples of purpose driven cultures that lead to business benefits include delighting customers, reducing the carbon footprint or innovating a service in a market.
The organisation has to invest in the development of the culture, with a particular focus on the data skills of its staff. Richter says when analysing an organisation’s maturity status, skills is an area he pays close attention to. “It is important to highlight good skills, which will exist in certain functions,” he says, adding that the skills gaps can then be tackled.
With an understanding of its data skills and maturity, organisations are then able to see which parts of the business have possibly become outdated in the way they operate. If methods or skills are outdated, it can create major risks to a modernisation programme. The chief architect of a major foods manufacturer says this understanding of skills and maturity is vital because all change programmes involve managing both old methods and the introduction of new ways of working.
Once a new data culture begins to emerge, the architect adds, that data management has to become embedded into the daily operations of an organisation: “consolidating data sets is not just part of digital transformation, it is an ongoing process that has to be built into your business routine.”
Creating data maturity begins with the organisation having a coherent vision for the role of data within the business. That vision must consider the context of the data in terms of its value to the business, both in terms of revenue, but also the understanding and analysis it brings. Data strategies can often be considered technology projects, but there is no such thing as a technology project, only business projects, so the journey towards data maturity has to include all areas of the organisation, including IT. Many businesses find that a data strategy benefits from a roadmap and set of goals for the organisation to achieve.
Richter of Adatis says he sees a mix of maturity levels across the business community. “Some have good competency centres whilst other organisations do not see what is possible, and see data as just an output of a business process, and not an asset of value.”
For businesses looking to get a competitive advantage, developing data maturity as an immediate priority is a golden opportunity. The annual Harvey Nash/KPMG global CIO survey found in 2019 that only three in ten organisations have the technology and strategy in place to be considered mature in their data culture.