Data Strategy Trends in 2020

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When it comes to having a Data Strategy, are you there yet? Remember, a real Data Strategy isn’t a road stop. It’s the destination.

There’s optimism that Data Strategy in 2020 will be on the highway somewhere between those two points. Much of the good vibe is created by the fact that business stakeholders are taking a more active lead.

The link between Data Strategy and Business Strategy will grow stronger in 2020 and for the foreseeable future. It has to.

“This link is imperative for the success of a Data Strategy, and as more and more people develop and start operationalizing their Data Strategies, they will need to ensure this link is obvious,” said Kelle O’Neal, founder and CEO, First San Francisco Partners. “Or their strategy will become a ‘project’ — not be sustainable.”

Yes, absent this connection, businesses will only be scratching the surface of doing what they can with their data in pockets rather than realizing higher goals. “The good news is that more people are beginning to see data as essential to the future of the company, and people from the business perspective are embracing data more and more,” said Thomas C. Redman, Ph.D., “the Data Doc” and President of Data Quality Solutions. “They realize they’ve got to play a role and lead most of the efforts.”     

You can’t underestimate the impact of having more business stakeholders more directly involved in Data Strategy. With that, companies develop a clear sense of their goals around using data, and have come up with some very innovative approaches to using data for business success, said Donna Burbank, Managing Director at Global Data Strategy. “The majority of data strategies we support are driven by business stakeholders, which is a positive sign.  I see this trend continuing in 2020,” she said.

Efforts exist to support the mission of business stakeholder involvement. The Leader’s Data Manifesto is one of them. It debuted in 2017 at the Enterprise Data World Conference with business users in mind to help the organization exploit the enormous potential of data. Business leaders could check out the Manifesto themselves and approach their data counterparts to discuss its ideas at greater length, or data practitioners could bring it to their attention.

Redman, one of the data leaders who helped create the Manifesto, thinks the new year could see more business and data team members having that conversation together. “Every data person has to understand the piece of business he or she is working on in great detail,” said Redman. 

Signatories to the Manifesto back up the point about business involvement. Deepak Bhaskar, founder, Leonis Consulting, wrote on its website:

“I’m an ardent believer that data’s value is only realized when business leaders embrace and leverage it for competitive sdvantage (and not throw the responsibility to IT and rely on them for it).”

Defining the Data Strategy extends to the board level — or if it doesn’t, consider it a priority to move in that direction this coming year, O’Neal suggested. Indeed, this year may see that trend gain more traction, as more organizations exist to promote this vision. The Digital Directors Network, for instance, was created to support that conversation and help senior leaders embrace the data story in their companies, she noted.  

Holistic Data Strategy Ahead?

If you’re anticipating that all the struggles that bedevil the goal of having a living Data Strategy will be over in 2020, that won’t be the case. There are still many organizations who are so busy managing their data tactically and within their silos that they don’t have time to create an overarching Data Strategy, said O’Neal:

“Companies still have challenges prioritizing data issues holistically to optimize effort and minimize rework,” she added. “They can be overwhelmed with how many challenges they have, so they don’t feel they have the time to elevate the planning process to find efficiencies and scale.” 

A big part of the issue is that they’re not looking at data acquisition holistically across the company. O’Neal gave the example of data scientists who can identify what data they would like to have for a specific point of analysis, and then go through a tactical data acquisition process that suits their specific need.

“Do this a dozen — or several dozen — times, and this can be significantly more expensive for an organization than if it had thought strategically about their data acquisition process,” she said.

Burbank sees that it’s often the business stakeholders, not IT, who are the ones who see the value of an integrated approach. IT staff often don’t want to be burdened with extra procedures, or to interact with a wide range of end users, according to Burbank.

Shift in Data Monetization

As everyone says, data is one of the most valuable assets a company can have. So it’s no surprise that the monetization of their data has been a compelling piece of a Data Strategy for organizations.

Businesses’ attitudes may be changing somewhat this year, though. That’s not to say that they’re dropping all plans around this. But there will be some adjustments, courtesy of unintentional (or intentional) misuse of personal information. Regulatory efforts will keep on rolling in this coming year, with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect Jan. 1, for instance. Also set for 2020 is GDPR 2.0, which will now feature the ePrivacy Regulation for protecting personal data across electronic communications:

“With CCPA and the other pending privacy legislation, we see companies pulling back from the idea of externally monetizing their own data at the risk of over-sharing,” O’Neal pointed out. “If this isn’t a primary revenue creator for an organization, companies aren’t willing to take on the risk.”

Burbank added that with much of the negative press around breaches of data privacy, many organizations are concerned to not be seen as “selling” their data. “Instead, they will concentrate on looking to use data to make better data-driven decisions to improve their revenue and growth and/or to enter new markets,” she said.

In any case, the business’s focus next year — and every year — should be on what it can do to make its customers’ lives easier, not first and foremost on how they can externally monetize their data. As an example, “If you build a web app, the critical data has to be used to understand what the customer wants,” said Redman. Revenue should come from making customers happy: “It’s not as if the initial object is money — it is what can you do to make what the customer does work better.”

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