Framework for Success: How to transform your organisation for a Data-Driven future - Dave Knifton

1 Mar 2023 08:41 | Sue Russell (Administrator)

Framework for Success: How to transform your organisation for a Data-Driven future - Dave Knifton

Jenny Andrew, DAMA UK Committee member and head of data at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, hosted an entertaining presentation by Dave Knifton, founder of The Data Gym. The webinar was the first in DAMA’s ‘Unleash Your Data’ series with an overarching aim to boost data-led innovation, decision-making, efficiency and agility at organisations.

We work in distinctly different organisations, but they all have common characteristics. Turning data into a useful resource rather than viewing it as simply a series of problems is a mission that unites all workplaces. But how do you even start to make strides towards a data-driven future that is better for employees and customers alike?

What ‘unleashing your data’ really means

During the webinar, Dave explored the foundations of a data-centric strategy that can transform your vision into a deliverable reality. This results in stakeholders having a deep understanding of:

  • the organisation’s data-related functions
  • the relationships between them; and
  • a shared understanding of data’s purpose

Dave recognises that every organisation is different, and used his presentation to frame these disparities using two types of hypothetical businesses.

The first is an ‘unenlightened’ organisation. Data activities, processes and professionals are found under one roof. However, these firms don’t embody a complete data strategy. As a consequence they run the risk of simply ‘tinkering’ with data rather than extracting value from it.

The second type of organisation sits at the other end of the spectrum. It’s a ‘data-centric’ entity that functions differently to its unenlightened counterpart. It does innovative things with its data that move the business along to new areas that might not previously have been considered.

Despite these obvious differences, Dave argues that common approaches to data management are the only feasible way forward if goals are to be met, and standards and regulations developed and applied across sectors.

Unleashing the power and value of data creates a wealth of opportunities. However, there is much work to do before organisations reach that point. This begins with determining where your organisation is on its journey to becoming data-centric.

Viewing business priorities through a data lens

Data-centric organisations have many key features in common. Largely, these can be divided into three areas, which Dave examined:

Revenue generation, including data-informed decision-making. This begins with a strong data culture, with employees understanding how to interact with data and the impact it can make. Too many businesses are ‘data inert’ and focus solely on dealing with problematic processes; rather than fixing them but also using data to innovate for growth.

Operational efficiencies - more agile, cost-effective and sustainable (in both senses of the word). Data literacy is key here, with employees empowered to make evidence-based decisions when using data while having a clear view of intended outcomes. In other words, the whole organisation is built on a foundation of ‘data decision-making by design’. Teams are connected by data; it isn’t hidden in silos; and there’s a line of sight between data input and results, enabling the measurement of positive impact. Automation has a role to play in simplifying and augmenting processes, and thereby achieving operational efficiencies (although the debate about human vs. machine was not a central theme of the presentation).

Reduced risk of data mismanagement e.g. GDPR non-compliance, and not using data for its intended purpose. Everyone should care that the data being used has the correct characteristics, as Dave calls them, to produce a well-oiled machine of data-controlled outcomes. It also means having a streamlined data estate. This provides legible, understandable datasets that are fit for purpose. Importantly, your firm needs assurance in business-critical matters such as compliance. A data-centric approach will provide this, potentially through a Data Policy Framework.

A framework for data success

Achieving success in those three areas described by Dave will afford your organisation ‘sure-footed agility’. But the positive outcomes will only be achieved if organisations realign around data.

To do that, they must design and implement a Data Assurance Framework that articulates solutions to aspects of data culture, data literacy, management & governance, skills, processes and outcomes.

This means implementing accessible templates that can be replicated and used across the business. This is true even for teams and individuals who don’t really care about data or how it is employed. The templates should be housed in a toolkit or ‘patterns store’ that all employees can access:

  • Self-serve
  • Model-based
  • Process-driven
  • Discoverable
  • Optimised via feedback

The benefits of unleashing your data

Ultimately, Dave believes the framework for a data-centric strategy can relieve the tension that lies between often-misplaced ‘delivery at pace’ that is intended to satisfy stakeholder demands, and a new, considered mindset of ‘delivery principles’ that breed lasting success.

These principles must be focused on sustainable, sensible outcomes that are driven by improved data management and performance. In this way, data governance, management and business architecture inter-relate harmoniously to enable better processes.

We’re keen to hear about your own experiences of building a data-centric organisation. Does it align with Dave’s Data Assurance Framework? Or did you take a different approach? Contact DAMA with your thoughts.


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