Data activation: From info to impact

As self-confessed data enthusiasts (just check out our data and analytics capabilities), we talk a lot about data at DiUS. One of our latest online panel discussions was all about turning your data into actionable intelligence, a topic very top of mind for many of us. If you missed it, here’s a glimpse into what we learned from our fantastic panellists:

  • Kate Blank, Co-founder, Heaps Smart
  • Simon Weller, Senior Manager Architecture and Data Capability, Department of Transport and Planning
  • Erik Danielson, Principal Consultant, DiUS

Our panellists shared their insights on a range of topics essential for effective data activation, from aligning data strategies with business goals to overcoming common challenges like data silos and security concerns. Here are the key takeaways.

Watch our on-demand webinar now! (Link above)

Why talk about data activation?

Gaining stronger control over your data is a frequent topic in our conversations with clients. Rather than starting with the technology, the aim should be to get value from your data, transforming raw information into actionable insights. Unlike dark data, which is collected but not utilised, activated data is analysed and used to inform decisions, create new business models, and enhance customer experiences.

Start with the questions you need to answer

Begin by pinpointing the exact questions you need your data to answer. This approach ensures that your data initiatives are focused and relevant. For instance, if your goal is to improve customer satisfaction, start by asking questions like, “What are the most common issues our customers face?” or “Which channels do customers prefer for support?” Prioritise important questions over interesting ones. While many data points might pique your interest, focusing on questions that drive business value is crucial. This ensures that your efforts are directed towards initiatives that will have the most significant impact.

Align with product strategy

Make data activation a core component of your product strategy. This involves setting clear objectives for your data initiatives and ensuring they align with user needs and business goals. For instance, a startup focused on educational technology aimed to enhance student-teacher interactions through data insights. By aligning their data access strategy with their product goals, they provided valuable feedback to educators, improving teaching methods and student outcomes. Leverage data insights to inform product development and strategic decisions. By analysing user feedback and behaviour, you can identify areas for improvement and innovation.

Cultivate a data-driven culture

Fostering a data-centric mindset across the organisation is key to successful data activation and long-term success. By embedding data-driven decision-making processes, organisations can empower employees to make informed choices. 

Engage teams across the organisation in the data journey. Use metrics to measure and improve their delivery capabilities. For example, involving customer support staff in technical discussions. By showing them how their data entries impact the business, they foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the data they handle daily. 

Recognise and celebrate successes that come from data-driven decisions. Highlighting these wins reinforces the value of data and motivates teams to continue leveraging data in their daily work. 

Educating senior leaders and the board about the importance of data involves storytelling and presenting data as part of a larger narrative. Frame data insights as stories rather than mere results, helping stakeholders understand the journey and the impact of data-driven decisions. This approach can build buy-in and support for data initiatives at the highest levels of the organisation.

Break down data silos

When data is isolated within departments or systems, it hinders comprehensive insights and informed decision-making. Breaking down silos allows data to flow freely across the organisation, enhancing collaboration and driving innovation.

To achieve this, implement automation and orchestration to integrate diverse data sources. Technologies like automated data pipelines streamline workflows and consolidate data from various systems, providing a unified view.

Additionally, adopting modern data infrastructure, such as data lakes or cloud-based platforms, facilitates centralization and secure access to data across departments. Maintaining scalable data environments requires robust Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) and cloud management practices. These ensure automated and optimised data integration processes.

Alongside these technical measures, fostering a collaborative culture and establishing clear data governance policies are essential. Encouraging cross-departmental collaboration and viewing data as a shared asset helps break down barriers and ensures consistent data practices.

Lastly, utilising data visualisation tools and dashboards makes integrated data more accessible and understandable for stakeholders. Visual representations of data help identify trends and insights quickly, aiding in faster decision-making.

Overcome data governance concerns without hindering progress

Balancing security with data activation is crucial for leveraging the full potential of your data without compromising privacy and compliance. Often, stringent security measures are seen as blockers to data initiatives, but they don’t have to be. 

Successfully managing this balance ensures that data can be utilised effectively while safeguarding against risks and maintaining trust. Implementing a team-based governance approach that involves multiple perspectives helps in creating comprehensive security protocols that support data initiatives. For example, involving cross-functional teams in governance ensures that security measures are aligned with business goals without hindering development. 

Leveraging cloud platforms with fine-grained controls also offers robust security while maintaining flexibility. These platforms provide detailed control over data access, storage, and processing, allowing organisations to meet regulatory requirements without stifling innovation. 

Establishing clear processes and protocols for data security is essential. These guidelines should outline how data is managed, shared, and protected, ensuring consistent practices across the organisation. One effective strategy is to separate identifying information from other data, ensuring that even if data is accessed, it cannot be pieced together to identify individuals. For instance, storing names and contact details separately from behavioural data reduces the risk of exposing sensitive information. 

Educating stakeholders about the importance of data security and involving them in the process builds a culture of security awareness. When everyone understands the impact of security measures and their role in maintaining them, compliance becomes a collective responsibility. For example, a healthcare provider faced strict regulations around patient data but successfully activated their data by implementing robust security controls and involving a cross-functional team in governance.

Manage ongoing costs

Effective cost management is crucial for ensuring that data initiatives remain sustainable and deliver long-term value. Start with manageable, smaller-scale projects to validate data strategies before committing significant resources, using cost-effective tools like Amazon’s S3 and Athena for initial analysis.
Regularly monitor cloud service usage to identify and manage rising costs, and consider offloading historic data to lower-cost storage solutions like Amazon Glacier to cut expenses without compromising accessibility.
Integrate disaster recovery strategies with cost-effective storage options to protect data while keeping costs in check.
Maintain a lean tech stack by avoiding over-investment in large platforms if simpler solutions meet your needs.
Ensure visibility into all data-related expenses with dashboards and reports to track spending and identify trends for proactive management.

Embrace the journey to data activation

Data activation is a powerful tool that can drive business success, but it requires strategic alignment, technical expertise, and a supportive culture. By understanding the importance of data activation, aligning it with business goals, addressing technical challenges, fostering a data-driven culture, educating stakeholders, managing security and costs, and improving speed to value, organisations can unlock the full potential of their data.

As the experts in the webinar demonstrated, the journey to data activation is challenging but immensely rewarding.

Curious about what’s next?

Dive deeper into each of these topics by watching the full webinar on demand

Or unlock the power of your data with our data activation sprint. Avoid wasting time and money, make smarter investments in validated business problems, and set the stage for advanced machine learning and AI workloads. Our one week sprint delivers a comprehensive analysis with actionable recommendations to enable prioritised investment. It delivers immediate benefits and sets you up for long-term success. 

Join us and be smart with your data investments today!

Want to know more about how DiUS can help you?

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