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The Truth About Data: Don’t build your strategy out of straw

Building a strong data foundation isn’t easy, but fail to do it and your data outcomes will fall short, or blow away altogether

We all know the moral of the three little pigs: hard work and perseverance pays off, while quick and easy always backfires.

How often we actually pay attention to this story is another matter.

No, we probably wouldn’t build our house out of straw or sticks: we know it wouldn’t last a day, let alone a lifetime. Instead, we’d pay an architect to design it, a builder to build it, and we’d order building materials that aren’t at risk of blowing away in a light breeze. If we’re being sensible, we’d probably get a project manager to oversee the build, too: someone who can make sure that no steps are missed, that everyone understands their role, that the materials are all in order and that the project doesn’t hit unnecessary delays because of obvious mistakes.

Yet the three little pigs’ story is not just about building a house, is it? It’s about hard work. It’s about not taking the fast, easy option when it presents itself and putting the time and effort into a project – any project – to make it a sustainable, long-term success. While we might not cut corners if we were building a house, most of us sure do try our luck when it comes to other projects. Especially technology. Especially data.

Truth About Data Little Pigs Blog Image 2

Thanks to digital, we have become conditioned to expect everything in an instant. At the tap of an app or the click of button, we can get what we want in record time, whether it’s a toaster from Amazon or a piece of information from Wikipedia. ‘Everything, now’ is so ingrained into us that we forget that not everything can be achieved so quickly and conveniently. Some things take time to get right. Like cheese. Or fine wine. Or a sustainable data strategy.

It can feel like a contradiction in terms: data is supposed to be fast, isn’t it? It’s all about instant insights, agility and quick reaction times. The whole point of using data (be it for decision making, or automation, or analysis) is to make our businesses better, stronger, faster… so surely implementing a data strategy or solution should be quick, too?

The truth is, if you want your data to deliver all of those things, you have to put the groundwork in first, laying a strong data foundation for your business that – once it’s built – can make virtually anything possible with data. There’s no software you can buy in that can make up for that foundation: don’t be distracted by the industry’s many acronyms and buzzwords that can sometimes, usually unwittingly, suggest otherwise.

So how do you know whether you’re the first, second or third little pig? Is your data strategy built of straw, sticks or good, solid bricks?

Building your strategy out of straw

It’s as we’ve always said at Amplifi: you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out. Straw is a rubbish building material (especially if you’re in the northern hemisphere).

Similarly, if you have rubbish data and you pour it into some kind of data software (whether it’s an MDM platform or a Data Streaming solution) you are going to get rubbish results. No technology can transform bad data into good data, just as even the most creative little pig can’t turn a few bales of straw into a solid semi-detached house.

Building your strategy out of sticks

Sticks are slightly better, but they’re still not going to withstand a high wind. Plus, rain is probably going to seep into the gaps. A data strategy built out of sticks might be based on some good quality data, but you haven’t really given thought to the long-term, like how to maintain that data quality over time, or your organisation’s attitude to data.

It might take a few extra huffs and puffs but eventually, your data house is going to fall down.

Building your strategy out of bricks.

To build a solid data strategy, you need to lay solid foundations and build good-quality data solutions on top of it. It’s a step by step process, that involves a combination of technology, initiatives and organisational change. A brick house doesn’t spring up overnight, and neither does a really solid, long-term data solution, but it will be standing long after the straw and stick alternatives.

Truth About Data Little Pigs Blog Image 1

Data strategy

What are you trying to achieve with your data? How exactly is data going to underpin your business objectives? You’d be surprised how many organisations don’t ask themselves this question before they start building their data house: the end result is never what they expected, wanted or needed, resulting in lost ROI and some serious questions for the CDO, CIO or data lead. Think about commercial objectives and use this as your blueprint from the beginning: it’s the only way to get the data and technology you need.

Data quality

As we’ve already said, rubbish in, rubbish out. You have to address data quality before you implement a data solution, and that means assessing the data you have, the data you need to reach your outcomes, and the steps you need to take to make sure that data is accurate, reliable, timely and consistent. We repeat: no technology will do this for you.

Data governance

Once you have ascertained what ‘good data’ looks like, how do you stop ‘bad data’ from filtering back into the business? With data governance: the processes and protocols that govern how your organisation handles data.

Technology selection

There’s no point digging those excellent foundations if you’re going to stick a straw house on top of them anyway. You need to make sure you’re getting the right technology for what you want to achieve with your data – both for the here and now, and for your long-term business plans. Simply picking a ‘top right’ vendor from the Gartner Quadrant isn’t enough: you need to know how to find technology that can deliver what you need.

Migration

How are you going to get your bricks to the site, and assembled correctly? You need to pay close attention to migrating your data or you could hit delays in your project as unexpected formatting and migration snags occur.

Getting a project manager

We’re going to take an educated guess here and say that the third little pig had some expert help when he built that brick house – little pigs don’t have opposable thumbs, after all.

This is where Amplifi come in. We can support you on every aspect of the data process: from establishing data quality and governance, to choosing the right technology for your needs, to implementing that technology effectively. We understand data and, more importantly, how it connects with people in your organisation, and can make sure that any data management solution fully integrates into your business.

Ready to brace yourself for more truths about data? Download our latest guide below: 'The Truth About Data'.

The Truth About Data

Here, we put data management in the spotlight to reveal the truth about data, including...

  • De-mystifying the acronym economy
  • Data Governance shortcuts for your business
  • Data foundations every organisation needs
  • The limitations of technology
  • How to navigate 'industry insights'
Download Guide