It has been said that data is the new oil. I don’t agree with this analogy because oil will eventually run out, while data will continue to proliferate. While data certainly oils the workings of your business, it can do so much more. Treated like an asset, rather than a commodity, data can truly transform your organisation.
How should organisations begin to treat data as an asset? Like any other asset, one needs to understand what it is, where it is, what state it is in, what it’s worth, and how it should be taken care of and maintained.
This is no easy task. Understanding where you are now is the first step that needs to be taken to get you to where you want to be. Here are the nine things that organisations need to consider when embarking on this journey.
1. General Data Governance
Data governance can cover many topics but the key one is to understand how well embedded data ownership and stewardship roles and processes are. Does your organisation have a set of metrics in place that measures this? Does this data governance extend to include, not only business as usual but also new programmes and projects your organisation is undertaking?
2. Data Architecture
When considering data architecture, what do you currently have in place? When thinking about line of business systems, data lakes, and data warehouses, how well are these integrated and aligned with the businesses requirements? Can you easily determine a single view of your customer or product line?
3. Data Quality
High-quality data is notoriously difficult to get right but is so valuable. If data quality is poor or even perceived to be poor, users will lose trust in it. Are you able to specify what good quality data looks like and can you measure its current state? Do you have the necessary exception and remediation processes in place to fix data? Most importantly, can you ensure that a good level of data quality is sustained?
4. Security and Compliance
Is your organisation able to strike the right balance between providing easy access to data and maintaining the necessary levels of security and compliance? What are the necessary technical and organisational controls that need to be in place to ensure that you don’t fall foul of any data protection laws?
5. Storage and Operations
Cloud computing has certainly lifted limits when thinking about data storage and operations, both technically and from a process or ease of use perspective. However, there is a downside to this. How efficiently are you moving data around and storing it? What level of data redundancy exists? Do you know what your current costs are, and can those be optimised? In addition to this, are you storing and retaining data in line with relevant policies such as your data retention policy?
6. Analytics and Reporting
Given the data that your organisation has available, what capability exists to turn this data into actionable insights? Many organisations rely on tools such as Microsoft Excel to form these insights. Is your organisation one of these? Is there an opportunity to unlock more value from your data by driving business strategy and decisions rather than just measuring decisions that have already been made?
Analytics and reporting aside, how well do users of the organisation’s data understand it? Do users know where to find data? Do they know the journey that it took to get there? Do they know what that data means? Having both technical (e.g. data catalogues and lineage) and business metadata (e.g. business glossaries) available is as important as having the data itself available.
8. Organisational Aspects
It is often easy to only focus on the technical aspects of data management and thus forgot about the organisational aspects. How well set up is your organisation to make sure that value is being delivered from your data? What roles and responsibilities are in place? What processes have been defined and are the processes being followed?
9. Reference and Master Data
Having a clear view of your key business entities is important. This could be customers, products, or even your organisational structure and hierarchy. How will implemented is your management of these entities, especially when you have several systems containing similar or the same entities? Which system do you trust more?
It is unlikely that any organisation would score top marks in all these areas, nor would they necessarily want to. Each organisation needs to understand which areas are most important for them, where they currently stand, and ultimately where they need improvement. This way, time and money invested are done so in the right areas, where the highest return will be made.