A step by step approach for data management

11 December 2020 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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In today’s data-driven world, it’s vital that disorganised internal data doesn’t hamper growth opportunities. By creating a ‘single source of truth’, organisations can drive intelligent decision-making that supports their growth strategy. So, where should they start? Tim Powlson, a senior business consultant at Entec Si, shares a step-by-step approach for data management. 

In the face of continued uncertainty due to the pandemic, it has never been more important for decision-makers to have a clear picture of every aspect of an organisation. However, those with internal data that is fragmented, inaccurate or disorganised are likely to find it far more difficult to gain a holistic view of the company, which could stand in the way of their post-pandemic recovery. 

A reliance on outdated business processes, for example, the use of multiple spreadsheets for recording information from customer surveys and sales, can often lead to valuable internal data becoming dispersed across the organisation. This reduces its visibility and accessibility, making it difficult to report on the information at a higher level or draw meaningful insights that develop the company’s growth strategy. 

Data Management - A step by step approach

A step-by-step approach

In order to unlock the full potential of internal data, it’s important to start thinking of data as an asset in its own right. If efforts are taken to maintain it and keep it up-to-date, it’s more likely to support leaders’ objectives and deliver value.

A key part of this process involves adopting a consolidated data management approach, allowing organisations to improve the reliability of their internal data by creating ‘a single source of truth’. One example of this is a data warehouse, which acts as an accessible hub for agreed internal data and reporting, incorporating automated feeds from a range of business systems. 

Organisations looking to get their houses in order when it comes to their internal data should start by considering their end goal. This question will in turn determine the follow-on questions that they should look to answer and will determine the requirements for a data warehouse or other data solutions. For example, a membership organisation may initially look to understand how many customers are ‘active’. The next question may be ‘What percentage of members make use of multiple service offerings?’ 

This process is a step by step journey. Only so much should be defined at the start to ensure the organisation is open to following the data. Each question answered is likely to lead onto a further query, and organisations should expect to iterate through the development. 

Once leaders have determined their key objective for data improvement activity, the next step should be to integrate the organisation’s relevant data sources. As this process can be complex and time-consuming, they should not aim to do everything at once. 

Tackling the task in manageable chunks will enable organisations to benefit from initial answers while working on the next requirement. Listing the organisation’s known data sources at the outset and ensuring that the whole team is on the same page about what these are is a useful technique to ensure no important sources are missed.

When seeking expert support with such projects, it can often be tempting to look for ‘off the shelf’ solutions, however, it’s crucial to ensure that these are aligned with the organisation’s individual objectives and business model. Choosing a long-term partner with an established track record and shared business values will help to increase capacity within the workforce and ensure that results from data improvement initiatives are felt quickly and are long-lived. 

Human capital

When making positive changes to an organisation’s internal data, it’s also worth considering any knock-on impacts for other areas of the organisation, such as its people. For example, leaders should give thought to how best to train staff around new approaches to data management. This may involve weaning employees off the use of local spreadsheets and databases, building confidence around how to consume data from the warehouses effectively. 

Data as an asset

In order to thrive after – or alongside – Covid-19, organisations will need access to information about the parts of their business models that still work well, while understanding how they need to adapt for their marketplace’s ‘new normal’. By carefully considering exactly what they hope to gain from data and establishing a single source of truth, organisations can get on track for growth and ensure their internal data proves a valuable asset for many years to come.