The cloud has introduced new and exciting possibilities for enterprise data. It’s provided an opportunity to break free from the silos, restrictions, and vendor lock-in associated with on-premise solutions. Moving to the cloud also provides more freedom and opportunity to build a solid data strategy designed to deliver desired business outcomes.
Data drives every aspect, powers decision-making across an enterprise, and can be your most valuable asset if it is processed, stored, managed, and shared in ways that support the business. A data strategy is a high-level business-focused plan for all enterprise data. It is the foundation of a larger data integration and management strategy.
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The four pillars of data strategy.
A thoughtful data strategy will begin with a thorough discovery process and should end with pilot projects to verify performance. During the planning process, technology needs, best practices, and available resources must be considered to create a future-proof data strategy that sets you up for success. The beauty of building a cloud-based data strategy is that you can try the scenarios out and see if they work, without committing too much budget.
With an eye on strategic business goals, here are the four pillars that are essential to creating an effective data strategy:
- Discovery of current and future business needs: This exercise involves recognizing all the ways your data can be used to better serve customers and improve business operations now — and in the future. Focusing on the business goals first is a new step for many enterprises — in the past, projects often started with the IT side, and if they didn’t ultimately benefit the business side, the funding would dry up.
The scalability of the cloud makes it more practical to make plans. Unlike on-premises solutions, you pay for what you need in the cloud, you can utilize multiple vendors, and you won’t overspend on unused space. Think about who needs access to what data to make this plan work. Security and privacy must be key considerations. Review the current data protection regulations, and how you plan to continue to comply as new policies emerge. Creating a data governance framework is a fantastic way to ensure you are using your data properly, efficiently, and in compliance with regulations.
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- Assess the landscape and review best practices: The best laid business plans for data won’t work unless they are technologically viable and sound. In this phase of data strategy development, you will assess the current IT landscape, and how it needs to achieve your goals now, and years down the road. Talk to veteran IT managers; they will be a valuable resource for understanding the technology underbelly of the business. Ask them about past mistakes or regrets they had with on-premises solutions, to avoid making them again in the future. Include network, security, and IT operations teams in a discussion to get their points of view on the necessary steps to achieve your goals. They may point out network requirements, infrastructure, and other technological roadblocks you might not have considered.
Talking to IT will make sure your data strategy will be practical and viable. Understanding the clear business value of solutions will help you prioritize which features should be most important to you when evaluating different data storage and management methods and vendors.
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- Create a Roadmap: Now that you have a clear understanding of how the business goals align with how IT can deliver on them, it’s time to lay out the tactical roadmap for your data strategy. This forward-looking plan, complete with the specific projects that tie directly to business initiatives and an execution plan for each, is the first step to putting things into motion.
Think of your data strategy roadmap as a journey: there is no finish line. include all parts of the organization and all stakeholders in the conversation.
- Run pilot projects: Before diving into the actual execution of the data strategy, you need to run some real-life crash tests. Among the great benefits of working with the cloud is that you get a lot more room for trial and error, and more control over scale than on-premise solutions. On-premises engagements typically require a leap of faith — you need to buy in up front and find out the results after. The scalability and flexibility of the cloud allows you to build pilot projects with real use cases. Test the use cases with a small group of stakeholders and iterate based on the feedback, adjusting where needed before fully executing on the data strategy. The best way to innovate is via continuous iterations and delivery of improvements.
Realize the promise of data.
Now’s the time for your organization to realize the value of enterprise data. Starting with a solid data strategy will set the groundwork for new and exciting ways for your data to deliver benefits. This will result in better customer experiences and engagement. As the organization starts to see tangible benefits and actionable insights from the data, there will be more cross-department buy-in, both culturally and financially. A thoughtful data strategy can ultimately be the key building block to a global data integration and management strategy that will enable your enterprise data to shine as the valuable asset it is in this data-driven era.
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