By Curtis Williams

Data readiness: don’t let data turn your digital transformation into a cautionary tale

Data Readiness

Behind every successful digital transformation story ever told is a solid foundation of data. 

However, few businesses seem to want to start their transformation story with, “In the beginning there was data, and it was good.” Instead, they choose to start their stories with tales of impressive ROI or amazing feats of technical brilliance, skipping over the chapter on data altogether.

But if you want to tell a digital transformation story properly, it must begin with data. Without data-driven insights, the success of a transformation project comes down to sheer blind luck. 

Technologies like AI and machine learning rely heavily on accurate data to deliver any real value back to a business. There are many times that companies have gone ahead with AI technologies before checking their data was ready. This can add months or even years to project timelines to fix later on down the track. We’ve seen this for ourselves across clients that have come to us at Simplus for help with their data. 

A large oil and gas client took an additional 18 months to locate and solve their data issues that were preventing a major technology transformation project from being effective. It would have taken far less time if they had conducted a data readiness assessment and got it right from the beginning. But they’re hardly alone – it’s a problem that many organisations, especially larger or more complex ones, often face. However, a bit of upfront work can save a lot of headaches and costly rework down the road.

For instance, one major hospitality brand lacked an effective data strategy in place. We developed a plan for them to connect key data sources together and it now drives significant results for their business. If they had gone ahead without this, the lack of data strategy could have significantly delayed the progress of their overall digital transformation and ended up with fewer digital capabilities. 

So how can you assess your data readiness? How can you know if your data will support your digital transformation goals and, if not, whether your data strategy is enough? Here are some of the data readiness questions you need to ask yourself to check if your company data is ready to support a digital transformation. 

Do you have a data strategy in place?

First, ask: do you have goals defined for your data? Do you know how it is collected and stored, and understand how it will be used? Have you identified any gaps in your current data strategy?

If you do have a strategy in place, you’ll want to scrutinise whether it’s the right data strategy. What might have been an adequate data strategy last year might no longer be sufficient, especially if your business objectives or larger strategies have shifted – and, in the new COVID-19 era, many of them have. Consider where your transformation goals will take you and where you’ll need to go along the way, then take a hard look at any gaps or misalignment in your current data strategy.

Is your data trustworthy and is it right?

Is your data complete, and has it been validated? How is your data cleaned and checked? Does it cover off the scope for what you need that data to do?

This can be an especially tricky exercise for larger organisations with a history of decentralised processes and operations, so be honest about what you do or don’t know about other parts of the business. If you don’t have visibility into a process, don’t assume it’s built around the same data practices as other parts of the business. Many organisations have only discovered different data practices in the middle of their transformation efforts, complicating the scope and overall timelines as they scramble to account for radically different approaches to data – and therefore radically different data quality and integrity.

Do the right people have the right access to your data?

Not everybody needs access to every piece of data. It’s fine to work within some siloes and store data across different repositories, but do the right people have access to the data they need to do their job well? 

This is where careful mapping and early engagement with end users come in handy. By undergoing careful data readiness preparation before you begin design or deployment, you can avoid unnecessary restrictions that threaten business continuity or disillusion users. And, with privacy and security considerations becoming increasingly urgent for almost every industry, it can help you avoid granting access in unnecessarily risky ways.

Are your people well prepared to handle the data and make the most out of it?

Can they read, understand and handle data to create actionable insights? 

After all, it’s not enough to collect and report on data. Employees need to be able to understand what the data means and how it connects to their work. On top of assessing the quality, integrity and velocity of your data, you’ll want to take a hard look at whether it will be easily accessible and applicable to everyday tasks.

Further, think about a story that includes people hungry for data. When employees know how to use it, they’ll often want to incorporate it into all of their decisions. And that’s great! Will the teams providing reports have capacity for increased demand? Can you democratise data in ways that help teams work faster and avoid data bottlenecks?

If you answered no or were unsure about any of the questions above, then you might benefit from a chat with our team of experts.

It’s also never too late to get your data in order. There are benefits to getting it right early on, but our team at Simplus can still help align your data, no matter where you’re at with your digital transformation journey. 

Take steps to get data-ready and safeguard your digital transformation

We know that starting off on the right foot with data is absolutely critical to the success of your future transformation projects as well as your project timelines. That’s why we offer data readiness services to ensure that your company has a good data strategy in place, and is ready to roll it out. 

If you want your digital transformation story to have a happy ending, make sure you begin with a strong first chapter on data. It is the foundation that will help your business go on to achieve incredible things with the right technology.

Want to make sure you’re data ready?

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