10 Essential Rules for achieving Data Maturity - By Colin Sales
The UK government has coined the phrase “Data is the new air” to emphasise data’s importance in the UK’s post-pandemic recovery and quest to be a leader in the data revolution that’s sweeping the world. This statement evolves from the often referenced headline “Data is the new oil”, designed to highlight that whilst oil was the most valuable and influential commodity in the 20th century, it has been replaced by data in the 21st century. Whilst oil reflects high value, air reflects a basic requirement for survival that no quantity of oil could ever replace. The comparison with air changes the emphasis completely and reflects the direction of travel that the government will be want us to take.
These 10 Golden Rules will assist you to understand the journey necessary to achieve organisational ‘Data Maturity’. I consider the first and last rules as the most important as they will prove fundamental to your success. Apply these rules properly and watch your organisation flourish.
Golden Rule 1 – Leadership
In 3C’s experience, if there is no commitment at leadership level, key strategic initiatives will fail. In theory the risk poor data presents to tenant safety and organisational security along with the essential nature data plays in the achievement of corporate objectives and value for money, should make the respect of data compelling enough, but for many leaders they do not know where to start and, just perhaps, they are afraid of what they may find. As a result, a focus on improving data maturity is delayed. This mindset must change if we are to succeed. This is particularly important when you consider that the Regulator of Social Housing has clearly stated that “Good quality data forms the cornerstone on which all other assurance of compliance is based”. Be under no illusion, when major issues arise….
Wilful blindness is no defence!
Golden Rule 2 – Benchmark
In order to measure and celebrate progress, you need to understand and quantify your starting point. Activities to improve an organisation’s data maturity can then be agreed and successes measured and celebrated. Interview your management, staff, customers and stakeholders as part of a discovery process to best understand the challenges and opportunities data provides, whilst also ensuring you consult those you want to travel with you on the journey. It is not uncommon for early, unexpected and valuable improvements to be achieved as part of this process. Any navigator will tell you that…
Key to a successful journey is knowing your starting point
Golden Rule 3 – Don’t recreate the wheel
Many mistakes have already been made by your predecessors. Achievable targets and milestones can be set once you have established what a successful journey to data maturity looks like. Interviewing those who have done it before you or talking to experts like 3C can provide a relatively quick and simple way of discovering what cost effective, proven and reliable methods will work for you. Those who have embarked on the journey to data maturity will no doubt tell you…
‘Data transformation’ is fundamental to successful ‘business transformation’
Golden Rule 4 – Create a Vision
Once you have an understanding of what you want to achieve and the benefits a data driven culture will provide, produce and publish your vision for a data-driven organisation and culture. Specific objectives are not necessarily required at this stage, but the vision will help ensure that stakeholders understand your direction of travel and appreciate what ultimately is to be achieved – an environment that will empower staff, reduce cost, increase efficiency and improve customer experiences. Great leadership is about…
The confidence in shouting “Follow me” and knowing that others will follow
Golden Rule 5 – Return on investment and prioritise
When considering your plan, review where the greatest benefits will be achieved. Organisational security is often seen as the priority. An analysis of governance downgrades clearly demonstrates that the vast majority are due to poor data and hence poor compliance reporting. Once priorities are understood, plan your activities. The output of this phase should be a roadmap with a defined list of projects, resources, timescales and anticipated outcomes. Those that assess financial performance know that…
Accurate measurement and insight are fundamental to maximising return on investment
Golden Rule 6 – Turn off the ‘Dirty Data Tap’
Create your internal rules for data standards, usually referred to as your ‘Data Dictionary’. Use automated software tools to assist you to discover and police data standards, allowing you the opportunity to correct problems and then alert you should data standards start to degrade. Figuratively speaking…
You need to block a hole before bailing out the water
Golden Rule 7 – Eradicate Data Munging
Executive stress is often caused by poor information used to underpin decisions, justify performance or provide assurance of compliance. This is too often due to the necessity of having to manually compile reports (referred to as ‘data munging’) and hence the potential for mistakes. It is only human to want to produce information that supports your position, which therefore leads to the motivations of those producing key performance reports needing to be challenged. Stress is created when others question the information you use, whereas confidence comes from knowing it’s factual. Who would disagree that…
One piece of accurate data can be worth a thousand expert opinions
Golden rule 8 – Accountability
Assurance of compliance requires someone to be made responsible. CEO’s have been fired due to someone else within their organisation not being challenged and held accountable for essential compliance requirements. Job descriptions therefore need to reflect accountability for the integrity of important information and competences regularly checked, ensuring any necessary support and development is ready to be provided. This is because. Accountability is key because…
What gets you Disciplined, Fined or Fired, gets done
Golden Rule 9 – Analytics
There are now a wealth of tools to support you on your journey to data maturity. 3C’s Data Logic service is just one example that provides real-time, 24×7 alerting of data issues as they arise, providing monthly compliance reports that support the assurance you need. Such analytics also provide insight on your performance, your customers and your team. It won’t be long before…
Assurance on the accuracy of data that supports compliance becomes mandatory
Golden Rule 10 – Cultural transformation
Accurate, accessible data empowers staff to make the right decisions, so enhancing efficiency, enabling better customer service and improving working environments. However, great data and insight is worth little without cultural adoption. To support this, actively involve those that are important to success, particularly if they are influential or resistant to change. Ensure they understand the benefits to ‘them’ rather than just the organisation. Celebrate success wherever possible, recognising those responsible. Recognition is a powerful motivator. It’s appreciated by those that received it and envied by those who want it. This is fundamental to adoption which in turn is fundamental to success as…
Cultural transformation eats information transformation for breakfast
The social housing sector is on a trajectory of rapid change driven by changing customer demands and expectations; the need for better compliance; and drive for better services that reflect value for money. Charles Darwin said:
“It is not the strongest species that survive nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change”
“Data is the new air”. Those that mange change based on accurate and insightful information will be those most likely to survive.
 National Data Strategy 2020 – “The Data Revolution initiative aims to make sure British businesses are in a position to make the most of the digital revolution over the years and decades to come, help us use data to improve people’s lives, and position the UK as a global champion of data use.”
 Consumer regulation Review 2019-20, Para 2.7, Page 9 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consumer-regulation-review-2019-to-2020/consumer-regulation-review-2019-20
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