Building a Winning Data Strategy
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Data science, including analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence, is no longer a novel concept. Nor is the important foundation of high-quality data. Both have contributed to impressive business successes — particularly among digital natives — yet overall progress among established companies has been painfully slow. Not only is the failure rate high, but companies have also proved unable to leverage successes in one part of the business to reap benefits in other areas. Too often, progress depends on a single leader, and it slows dramatically or reverses when that individual departs the company. In addition, companies are not seizing the strategic potential in their data. We’d estimate that less than 5% of companies use their data and data science to gain an effective competitive edge.
Over the years, we have worked with dozens of companies on their data journeys, advising them on the approaches, techniques, and organizational changes needed to succeed with data, including quality, data science, and AI. From our perspective, these are the two biggest mistakes organizations make:
- They underinvest in the organization (people, structure, or culture), process, and the strategic transformations needed to get on offense — in other words, to take full advantage of their data and the data analytics technologies at their disposal.
- They address data quality improperly, which leads them to waste critical resources (time and money) dealing with mundane issues. Bad data, in turn, breeds mistrust in the data, further slowing efforts to create advantage.
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Although the details at each company differ, seeing data too narrowly — as the province of IT or the data science organization, not of the entire business — is a recurring theme. This causes companies to overlook the transformative potential in data and therefore underinvest in the organizational, process, and strategic changes cited above. Similarly, they blame technology for their quality woes and failures to capitalize on data, when the real problem is poor management.
We’ve all observed how companies behave when they are truly serious about something — how the goal changes from incremental progress to rapid transformation; how they muster both breadth and depth of resources; how they align and train people; how they communicate new values and new ways of working; and how senior leaders drive the effort. Indeed, it almost seems as if companies go overboard when they are truly serious about something. Amazon’s