Want to go Digital? Think Data Strategy, first!

by | Jun 14, 2020 | 0 comments

By Shatha Al Maskiry

The mindsets of Ceos have been dominated by “digitalisation” as there is an endless feed of news unfolding every day on how digitalisation is disrupting industries and even putting companies out of business. The radical transformations are putting Ceos under pressure to start deriving value from their data, however, many senior executives are unclear on where to start or how realistic is it to quickly leverage the benefits from data and the associated technologies.

The biggest challenge organisations face with digital transformation is that they do not have a clear long-term strategy or end goal, which leads them to face several false starts, internal disagreements and worst of all, poor decisions by over investing in the wrong technologies for the wrong reasons. It may not always be catastrophic; however, it is burdensome, expensive and very often unsuccessful in supporting the growth strategy. A well-defined long-term strategy should be designed to secure organisations to make the right investments with the right solutions based on the best information and budget available.

When developing a digitalisation strategy, we need a vision that is underpinned by a well-thought-out data strategy aligned with the goal of the organisation’s digitalisation efforts. We must understand the market, organisational and technological drivers and ensure the goals are around attaining a competitive edge, enriching customer experience and redesigning an agile business model, which is responsive to the market, to governance matters and new regulatory requirements.

Cybersecurity measures are also an imperative aspect to consider. Before embarking on the strategy, understand where you are positioned in terms of digitalisation readiness as far as people, process and technology are concerned. You need to review your current analytic capabilities, have clarity on the functional and technical capabilities of your current data management programme and the mapping of the data flow.

Only then, you are in a clear position to define the capabilities and data requirements needed for your growth, as well as the best fit business intelligence and database solutions that you will need to implement. You then develop a road map which defines how you will address the current gaps “in agreement” with key stakeholders, and then move towards planning and implementing the strategy.

To meet the requirements of the desired future state, you must adopt a flexible approach to first close the gaps and then embark on a phased implementation approach. This also means that you must source and assign experienced resources, and if you are short of such expertise, then it is crucial to bring in external experts to tackle the challenges and risks by appropriately communicating and facilitating agreements amongst key stakeholders to effectively correct the gaps around data management.

The typical challenges that you may come across is the absence of a data governance framework, non-existence of an archiving strategy which results in too much data being retained, inconsistent access to data which results in issues with data integrity, poor agility in adding new data to the environment which can impact data governance and accuracy, and absence of a cost effective data storage. Knowing this, is the beginning of a promising digitalisation journey as it gives you clarity on how to prioritise the initiatives that will bridge the gaps and accordingly, you proceed with developing the implementation plan.

The need for change and innovation is a serious business focus and issue, but there are certain steps that must be taken to embrace on digitalisation transformation. Start with simple questions: Do we have a strong mandate from leadership? Are our people, digital ready? Are our processes future-ready as the technologies we wish to implement? Are we investing sufficient time and resources to implement? Are we taking a “bottom up” approach to understand how our investments in technologies will make us or break us? The pressure to do something is real and we may face a few bumps but rushing into digitalisation with one-off initiatives results in wasted effort, costly investments, and employee disengagement which impacts productivity.

The issues can have a multiplication effect and hampers our growth plans. Bottom line, strategise in a methodical manner and ask yourself where you want to take this organisation in the long term. You then follow these key steps: address your current gaps, take measures to be digital ready in terms of people, process and technology and then create a data and technology infrastructure that support your future vision and growth plans.

Digitalisation initiatives require talented experts, but it is fundamental to have a solid data foundation with relevant, trusted and secure data or else any digitalisation initiative will definitely and effortlessly crash. Data is the bloodline of any organisation and it can sprout a number of golden opportunities so let us embrace the deep insights it contains to deliver sustainable and innovative solutions to scale our growth.

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