3 Keys to an Awesome Data Strategy - Part 2: Data Assets

The iBusiness Group. 3 keys to an awesome data strategy: data assets
  • January 18, 2023


This second in a series of articles on the three key components of an effective data strategy will discuss how a focus on data as a asset can change how your organizations thinks about and executes on data.

Two prevailing mindsets that exist in many organizations are that data is a subset of IT and data is owned by the application. Both of these paradigms are incorrect, lead to increased data debt, and stifle your data strategy.The first mindset is where data is treated as a subset of IT -- project scoping, staffing, budgeting, and more -- are driven by IT priorities, which are typically on-time and on-budget project delivery. Even if the data team sits outside of IT organizationally, many organizations still treat data as a subset of IT. I once had an IT executive tell me that that we can do IT without data but we cannot do data without IT. This is the epitome of an IT-centric mindset for data and it is diametrically opposed to objectives like self-service data, self-service analytics, data-driven culture, data ownership, and so many other aspects of data that are not technology-driven or technology-enabled.

The second mindset is where data is treated as a component of an application, whereby a major ERP, CRM, or other operational system is the definitive, or de facto, source for data structures, data definitions, names of data elements, and more. I have been involved with many projects where the application team drives data decisions solely from the perspective of their application. This is understandable as this is what they know and their deployment is what they are accountable for. However, expecting your ERP or CRM system to be your master data management for customer or product data will ultimately short-change your data strategy.

To address the challenges of IT-centric, application-centric, and project-centric mindsets, we introduce data products as one of the pillars to our data strategy.  A paradigm shift to a data-centric, product-centric mindset affords us many benefits, including:

  1. An enterprise perspective - Getting up and above the application level and the project level provides the opportunity to define, catalog, architect, manage, and own the data for the enterprise, breaking through the silos that applications and projects can create.
  2. Integration alignment - Looking across the IT application landscape allows our data integration work to become an accelerator for our data strategy by leveraging the effort and money put toward data integrations to create high-quality, reusable data assets through a data hub, a data fabric, or a data mesh architecture.
  3. Data as an asset - Many organizations say data is an asset and then talk about data and technology as enablers for their business strategy and objectives. As long as we see data as an enabler, it is unlikely data will truly become an asset. Data must be elevated to a business strategy and objective and technology becomes an enabler for both our business strategy and our data strategy. Technologies, applications, portfolios, and projects should all be seen as enablers that contribute toward data as an asset.
The benefits of data assets are necessary for the data readiness component of our data strategy as much as data readiness is needed for the data assets identified, prioritized, and created within our data strategy. These two components of our data strategy, working together and feeding off each other will open up the opportunities necessary to achieve the often-illusive data maturity and data-driven culture we seek. We will discuss the data maturity component of our data strategy next time. 

Question: What benefits have you realized by shifting from an application and project-centric mindset to a data asset-centric mindset?  Please leave a comment.

The Intelligent Business Blog

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