How to Use Big Data Effectively: Data Strategy Tips from #DigitalBrainFest 2016

Published June 6, 2016

Gathering massive amounts of data is easier than ever. The Get Control of Your Big Data Before Getting Buried Alive session at Digital BrainFest 2016, which included our own Ray Vazquez and Dennis Middleton, addressed ways to effectively harness data and make it work for your company, including managing data-related risks.

As the panel of experts discussed, many companies have stores of “volatile data,” such as strategic intelligence data on customers. Think of this volatile data like dynamite; it must be handled carefully to prevent it from blowing up and negatively disrupting your business – as through a data loss incident.

Approaching your data and business strategy together instead of separate is a key way to get data under control and working for your organization, according to the speakers.

Why Data Strategy Starts at the Top: Educating Executives and Creating Culture

Data collection on its own doesn’t offer much value, so data must be combined with a strategy for using it. Educating company leaders is key, as many executives currently “look at data as a foreign language,” agreed the panel. As one speaker said:

Until [companies] can turn big data into “kitchen speak,” the majority of executives who are trying to drive a strategy will not truly understand the “language” of big data.

The solution? Make data a language your executives can understand. “Don’t be afraid to make people think about how data impacts the business strategy,” said a panelist.

Priority one is defining who owns the data. Here are some of the other key questions our panelists recommend you use to assess your company’s approach:

  • Do you feel comfortable with your data?
  • Do you have access to the data directly?
  • Can you trust your data?

Additionally, here are seven other signs that indicate that you need a comprehensive data strategy.

Another important job for executives: creating a culture that strategically uses data. As the panelists explained, cultural readiness and willingness to share data throughout your organization is a top priority. To leverage the power of the data you are collecting, you need communication across all departments and work streams.

Cross-functional analysts are also powerful assets for a team trying to drive data strategy. Here’s more on how data scientists can make your company more data-driven and analytical.

As our Digital BrainFest panelists told their audience, these data experts can change the dynamic within a company through their deep understanding of data, ultimately identifying themes and signifiers in the data that others may not recognize.

Here are four key aspects of a strong approach to data management and strategy, all centered around your business strategy:

  • Data Governance and Quality
  • Reporting, including financial, operational and analytics
  • Transformation, including data lakes and ETL
  • Risk Management, including security, continuity and compliance

As we previously mentioned, your company likely has volatile data that could potentially cause havoc within and for your business, and you must structure and manage it to both get value and reduce risks.

Bear in mind that “nothing breaks trust down more quickly than a breach of your customers’ sensitive information.” There’s no magic bullet for using big data effectively. Developing a data strategy, including structuring your data and taking the time to truly understand it, is crucial for driving value, however.

Continue to check out the Digital BrainFest 2016 Highlights page for additional recaps, videos and takeaways from this year’s event.

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