Here is something we see a lot: companies working on big data projects that are opportunistic rather than strategic. While this makes sense considering the world in which we all live - new priorities emerge that need to be tackled immediately – it often leads to fragmented efforts. 

Over the long term, the lack of structure and direction can take its toll and prevent companies from achieving their larger business objectives. At some point, organizations need to take a step back and develop an integrated data strategy that is thoughtful, comprehensive, and future looking. But how do you do this?  We have learned there are some critical elements needed to develop a meaningful big data strategy, a strategy that allows organizations to move from gut feeling to data-driven high confidence decision-making.

  • Leadership and Support. C-level support is critical to developing an integrated data strategy. This means leaders must be vocal in their vision of a data driven organization. At the same time, they need to create a culture that embraces experimentation and allows data analytics to be used across the organization. Equally important, they need to provide the resources that make it possible for teams to put impactful findings and insights into action.
  • Start with the Big Picture. As with so many other activities, companies must sync their big data efforts with their larger corporate objectives. This means determining a plan of action that will allow the company to use information to change the way business is done, improve KPIs, and close the gaps in their business. At the same time, the strategy should be flexible enough to adapt to changing goals and be able to support new efforts. The next step can be more tactical, as leaders enter the prioritization where they select specific big data projects that will support the larger corporate goals.
  • Getting all Your Ducks in a Row. As we discussed in one of our recent blogs, data management and governance is often overlooked, but fundamental to supporting a data strategy and allowing an organization to find solid and trustworthy insights. Data governance efforts should be broad and include a number of elements such as data quality and integrity, architecture, policies, business rules, automation, etc. An integrated data strategy should also include a plan for breaking down silos and allow for the sharing of information across an organization.

For some organizations, building an integrated strategy means they will also need to build or grow their data governance board so that it includes both technology and experts. This broader team can help guide strategy around what the data should do, how it can be integrated and used, and help break down silos within the organization. Many organizations take the view that ownership of big data analytics efforts lie with the business units, meaning the BUs determine what problems to tackle, while IT works to support and facilitate these efforts.

At this point, companies should also think about where they will invest. Many find it useful to deploy end-to-end big data platform that can perform a variety of functions ranging from data assessment to the integration of multiple structured and unstructured data streams to advanced analytics.

  • Think Ahead. No one has a crystal ball that will tell them what will be important to their business or to their customers in two years, or what new technology disruptors will emerge. However, organizations should put into place a strategy that prepares for the future, and supports scalability, agility, the growth of new types and data streams, and lays the foundation solving new problem. For organizations working with a technology partner, the partner should have a solid roadmap, be making investments that allows them to take advantage of the latest analytical tools, and have in place an ecosystem of partners they can leverage to bring the latest thinking and technologies to market.

Developing an integrated data strategy can have both short-term and long-term benefits for an organization. As the strategy is implemented, an organization will be more disciplined in their big data efforts, be able to better leverage IT investments, and uncover new insights that can be transformative to business.