In a recent Technology Tapas article, I mentioned identifying your data assets to understand how you might use data, what it can tell you about your business, and where there might be gaps in information. You may find your organization has lots of ideas, but you’re unsure where to start. That’s okay! The best way to get started is to pick one business challenge you know the organization is passionate about and where you would like to see better data. Then, ask some questions:
Why is this data valuable? What does it tell you about your business?
Sometimes we look at a financial number or an operational metric because it is what the organization has looked at for a long time, but we have lost the reason for looking at it. Go back to the ‘why’. Does it tell you about profitability, efficiency, or growth? You may uncover some hidden gems when you do this.
Who owns this data asset?
It is easy to say that there is something is wrong with data, but many organizations have limited knowledge about how it is produced and maintained. If you can’t put a name (not an organization) to the data asset, start thinking about why that is. You may find that no one owns it or is accountable for it.
How is the quality of the data asset? If it is not good, can you identify where it gets corrupted in your business processes?
Much like having a specific owner for data assets, it is important to know how the data is used in business processes. Sometimes data looks good at the department level but does not roll up well to the corporate level. It’s possible that expectations about data quality differ.
For example, if your organization receives data from a third party and it regularly contains incorrect spellings of state names, but your data ingestion team fixes it before you see it in your reports, does that meet quality standards? Can you get the third party to fix it before it hits your door, eliminating some work for the ingestion team? If you didn’t have this data asset, what would you use instead to provide this same value, the same ‘why’?
Asking this may lead to other assets or discoveries of data with which you are not so familiar. One company found their focus on widgets was no longer giving the pulse of the business. They needed to shift to customers, and not just customers overall, but customers by business segment, as they had quite different demographics.
At the end of the day, you want to be able to tell a story about your data and what it means to your company. As you do that, you are starting to understand the value, lineage, and governance around the data. We will talk more on these topics in a future Technology Tapas blog post.
Check out our podcast series on Intelligent Data to learn more about how data is being used in the industry and how you can leverage your data assets.