Skip to main content

Expert advice on driving an effective data strategy


Derek Munro 4 minute read Chief data officer, Data quality
Last week Boris blogged about the launch of our new research, ‘Rise of the data force‘. I was pleased to be invited to host a recent event to present the results and explore key themes raised in the report.
We were lucky to be joined by our network of C-level data leaders, a group who are themselves at the forefront of enabling their organisations to use data strategically. As well as hearing the headline findings from our CDO research and networking with peers, we were joined by an impressive panel of speakers. We heard from Mike Ferguson, Managing Director at analyst firm Intelligent Business Strategies, on how to establish an effective data strategy in a rapidly changing digital age. We were also pleased to welcome Hany Choueiri, CDO at Bank of England, who spoke of adopting a holistic approach to data management and implementing structures to support a data driven community and culture.
With so much expertise in one room, it was too good an opportunity not to share some nuggets from the day. I’ve collated my highlights into 5 key pieces of advice on establishing an effective data strategy - direct from our expert contributors.

1. Keep your processes relevant

To ensure that your data strategy aligns to business goals, always establish responsibilities for data along the same lines as the business process e.g. order to cash etc. Don’t fall into the trap of allocating them by ’system’ or ‘database’ because a single business process is often associated with several silos of IT processing, resulting in communication issues and responsibility complications.

2. A well-managed Data Catalogue is a valuable asset

Sharing data can bring enormous benefits but it has to be done responsibly and in a way which is “governed”. One particular way of ensuring this is by establishing a searchable data catalogue. Our experts all agreed that the more detail included the better - ideally showing much more than definitions. It should show data provenance (producers) and users (consumers), which means there is much more chance of data re-use and less “re-inventing the same thing”. Other important additions include compliance and privacy requirements, business descriptions, user-allocated “trust” scores and business “importance” score – 1-5 stars.

3. Adopt new technology at your own pace when the time is right

Adopt new technology at the right pace that’s relevant to your own stage of maturity and aspirations - don’t blindly follow ‘the latest thing’. One common example of this is Hadoop where we’re seeing many organisations expecting it to solve all their problems. In fact quality, consistency, duplication, redundancy, presence, latency, etc. are all still issues that require an organised approach composed of people, process and tools. Many are now realising that moving all the data into one central Hadoop cluster to do all the processing is not feasible or necessary, so they are looking at moving the processing to where the data is.

4. Make it easy and accessible for everyone to get involved

It’s widely accepted that a key responsibility of those in charge of data is to evangelise and establish a company-wide culture of data, but how? First off let everyone have their say as this improves the results and engenders better engagement. This can often work well through cross departmental newsletters and forums and even events with presentations and internal networking sessions with a more informal social dimension. Data Quality maturity inevitably varies across different departments, so find and promote the pockets of best practice to assist in everyone’s journey to “maturity”.

5. Always measure value according to business priorities

Measurement is irrelevant unless it’s presented back to the organisation in business terms. Change your focus from the ‘mechanics’ of data (storage, extraction, movement) to business meaning and value so that everyone can really get to grips with the impact of data issues, costs and risk to the organisation.
It was interesting to see so many of the conversations echoing themes from our latest research report, ‘Rise of the data force’, which examines just why having a senior data owner is fast becoming the norm as data volumes escalate and technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace. To read the findings please download the research report. Our exclusive network of C-level data leaders meet regularly to discuss the role of data in their organisations, if you’re interested in joining, please email