Data, stored properly with a robust data strategy, drives business decisions, affords a 360 degree view of customers, provides insights into campaign effectiveness, enables forecasting and pipelines to help steer successful sales and increases user satisfaction for service. A written data strategy at the organizational level will act as a guide to align purchasing and use of software solutions to acheive best outcomes for the organization as a whole.
A good data strategy will outline who is responsible for determining purchase of software solutions with an overall goal of ensuring that the software aligns with the data strategy at an organizational level.
A process for selecting software should include guidelines that determine a review journey from the initial assessment of need, through selection of solutions for review, and a process for final purchase. The guidelines should layout who should be included in the process at all stages. This will help to alleviate departments purchasing software to meet their immediate needs without the benefit of knowing how it will integrate with other systems and contribute to the overall success of a data strategy.
Here's a guide to help implement a robust data strategy:
1. Understand what data silos are.
The first step for SMBs is to understand what data silos are and why they should be avoided. Data are isolated systems of data that are not integrated and therefore pave the way for inconsistencies and reduced insight. Data can offer insights into customer behavior, streamline operations, identify market trends, and much more. Recognizing the importance of defining an application that is the "source of truth" with appropriate integrations is the foundation of creating an effective data strategy.
2. Assess what data storage you currently have.
Many SMBs already possess a wealth of data from various sources – List out your current applications and determine at an organizational level versus a departmental level what are the major systems. Are there any outdated systems that should be brought into the "source of truth application" or replaced with a more updated solution that integrates with the "source of truth application"? It may be necessary to interview staff to determine what they are using in their day to day workstream. Systems that you should consider may include the following:
Website transactions and form data
Email contact lists
and many more...
3. Create a data strategy document. This document will serve as an ongoing guideline for the purchase and use of applications and the storage and flow of data throughout the company.
- Outline why a data strategy is important to your company to help acheive user buy-in and compliance.
- Outline what you will need in systems under review for purchase or ongoing use to ensure data quality. Your written requirements list could include some of the following:
- Platforms that provide data validation rules
- Features to reduce duplication
- Single point of entry in your organizational data collection
- Data types such as picklists, lookups etc. that can help deflect text entry.
- Encryption and other security features. This is particularly important if you are storing data that needs to meet HIPPA compliance or PII compliance rules.
- Prioritize data security
- Determine and ensure that data is backed up and available for restore in all applications including cloud applications.
- Educate staff about the importance of data security.
- Determine guidelines for data archival. Data storage can be expensive and can also affect reporting and even the ability to search and quickly identify data. There may be more than one method for data archival. Consider how easily archived data can be accessed. Data archival should be a consideration at the organizational level as it can impact systems used by multiple departments.
- Determining level of need. Rate whether it is necessary to fulfill the request and the urgency. Determine how it fits in with budget and resource timing considerations.
- Task the team with determining whether there is existing software at the company that could accommodate the request, if so does it make sense to replace the existing software with a new purchase.
- Consider whether there will be resources available to assist with setup and training efforts. If resources are not available the result of an implementation can be "technical debt". Technical debt means that it will require more work down the road to fix what was not initially configured or implemented properly.
For small companies and organizations, implementing a data strategy doesn't mean competing with large corporations on data volume or technological prowess. Instead, it's about understanding their unique business needs, leveraging available data sources, and making informed decisions to drive growth and success. By adopting a data-driven approach tailored to their capabilities and goals, small companies can pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.