Four Pillars of a Successful Data Strategy: Making Better Business Decisions

The amount of data a business compiles can be overwhelming, and as a result, many businesses struggle to organize, analyze, define, protect, and leverage their data. Part of this is because you don’t have a clearly defined data strategy in place – or not knowing how to build one that works best for your business.

If your current approach to managing your data isn’t working, or you haven’t developed a comprehensive data strategy at all, this article is for you. In this document, we’ll discuss a “four pillar” approach that will help you implement a comprehensive and effective data strategy.

We’ll define the role each pillar should play when building and deploying your data strategy, and demonstrate how this will help you make better business decisions.

1. Format

Typically, in a traditional BI spreadsheet or report, data is often organized haphazardly into multiple rows and columns on a page. This leads to looking at manually row after row and column after column in an obsolete and time consuming way. It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack when trying to identify critical findings.

That’s why the best way to format your data and really bring it to life is to visualize it graphically. This will provide instant visibility into outliers, trends and / or issues that require resolution.

Data visualization makes it easier for everyone to understand what the data is showing, especially in these days of reduced attention span. It also allows your coworkers to wonder why something seems wrong, and then allows them to dig deep to find out the root cause of the problem.

2. Governance

Governance is the most crucial factor to consider in the face of what is called “reporting anarchy”. Without a single source of truth, business users can easily lose faith in data. And without good governance, business logic is often duplicated in reports and lacks standardization, making your data totally unmanageable.

Taking a data model approach to govern all data, metrics, and relationships based on a single source of truth will ensure accurate reporting and analysis. It will also serve as a standardized process for developers and analysts by providing them with a methodology that spans all business data and formula logic.

As a result, everyone will follow the same procedures and standards. With good governance, each team member’s view of data is limited to what is applicable to them based on the security defined by your organization.

Formulating a reliable data governance plan ensures that your data will be pulled from the defined source. But don’t stop there. Make sure to combine it with the consistent use of predefined metrics and KPIs, because once removed from the source and manipulated, you can no longer be confident in the numbers.

3. Accessibility

Every organization faces challenges when trying to make its data and content accessible to as many team members as possible. This is why the third pillar – accessibility – is so important.

Sharing traditional reports in spreadsheets is awkward and leads to endless email exchanges with multiple versions shared back and forth. Depending on the amount of data in a spreadsheet, it can be difficult to effectively share it with other team members. There is also the problem of passing the data to the right person – i.e. the controller, the project manager, the salesperson, etc. – in the correct format. Making it fully accessible to team members in each of these different roles is beyond the challenge.

Making data accessible anytime, anywhere on any device offers many quantifiable benefits. Managers can quickly access their key metrics and data analysis on their smartphone or tablet in seconds. Analysts can create reports in minutes from a governed data model. Individual alerts can be set up with business critical report updates without anyone having to log into an application and pull reports on their own.

Providing end users with mobile access to data reports is now a necessity in the workplace. In many industries, users who need real-time access to data continually switch from working inside an office to working remotely throughout their workday. Project managers in the construction industry, for example, spend much of their day analyzing spreadsheets and data, then using their findings to make important business decisions in the field.

Make sure that no matter where they work, these end users will be able to use any device to examine real-time data and “drill down” to transaction details. This accessibility will allow them to identify trends, correlations and outliers, which should lead to quantifiable improvements in business processes. It will also allow them to make critical decisions in real time as needed.

4. Punctuality

Avoiding prolonged data preparation and refreshes is an ongoing challenge for many businesses. Spending days per month extracting and delivering data from a spreadsheet to end users not only takes time, but also creates unnecessary delays in decision making. And like many things in life, timing is everything!

Without a centralized and governed data model, at month-end, for example, multiple reports may need to be refreshed multiple times, taking countless extra hours to process.

This is where punctuality clearly emerges as the fourth pillar. Incremental loading of data and establishing a short refresh schedule will ensure that your approach is strategic and organized in a consistent manner. Data partitioning means that only data that changes during the current period (s) is updated.

Why? Because historical data does not need to be constantly updated throughout the day. One refresh cycle (in minutes) can update hundreds of reports and dashboards at once, providing all users with immediate updates without having to refresh each report individually.

Ultimately, any data report that takes days, if not hours, is unacceptable in 2021. Successful, competitive businesses need to be able to examine data and make strategic decisions quickly. Dramatic improvements at month-end close will save time by moving from manual data analysis to automated analysis and reporting. Today, a process that previously took weeks can now be completed in hours, allowing the leadership team to review findings and results and make critical business decisions faster.

Using a tool that extracts data from the source, defines metrics and metrics, and improves reporting performance, provides executives with the information they need to confidently move the business forward.

Establish a data modeling strategy

For companies looking to make better and faster business decisions, the process of extracting, analyzing, and reporting data should be easy to use and innovative. Build on these four pillars when building a data modeling strategy. Completing your strategy with the right software solution will give you the foundation and framework to help your business leverage its data as a strategic asset.

By providing self-service access to your master data through Business Intelligence, business users will pull critical insights, investigate assumptions, and generate reports and analytical dashboards quickly and easily. Empowering your organization to become data-driven and partner with a provider of innovative data analysis and business intelligence solutions will result in improved operational efficiency, increased profitability and growth in bottom lines.

About the Author:

Paula Fredericksen, Director of Customer Success, Preferred strategies