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In this article we explore the importance of developing a data strategy and action plan, so that you can maximise value across your organisation. 

Now more than ever, CFOs and FP&A teams are under pressure to provide their business with fast, accurate and actionable insights. Even though it is expected that the finance professional of the future will be the catalyst for change, many businesses do not have the organisational structures, and data frameworks in place to support the transition from steward to strategist.

Harnessing the destiny of your data can be the first step to creating a robust and flexible action plan that will set you and your finance team up for future success.

You must walk before you can run.

Yes, advanced predictive analytics and AI technologies are ‘the way of the future.’ But, before you can reap the benefits of assisted intelligence, focus on your foundations. Adopt an agile mindset and stay flexible when developing your strategy. We like to say, “think big, start small.”

Setting high expectations of data consistency across your organisation is necessary and there are 5 key questions that your data strategy must answer:

1. What data do you want to obtain from enterprise systems?
2. What processes will you use to obtain that data?
3. What level of data transformation is required?
4. Who within your organisation can help you make the change happen?
5. What technology do you need to bridge the gap?

Let us review these questions in more detail:

1. What data do you want to obtain from your enterprise systems?

Not all data is created equal and for that reason you need to be ruthless about the data you obtain.

The key is to align your data strategy to your company’s strategic objectives. Review your company’s Key Performance Indicators and long-term goals, then, re-engineer the data that is required to measure the success of these indicators.

By getting clear on your company’s goals, you can begin generating real value for stakeholders and focus your efforts on providing them access to data that will allow them to discover insights.

2. What processes will you use to obtain that data?

How you collect and govern data is critical to your strategy. It is a good idea to develop an inventory of all data sources and applications and establish who will be responsible for each. Ownership over data sources will help people to become more accountable for the delivery of accurate data.

The next step is to make the collection of that data more efficient. This is where automation can help to reduce manual task time, as well as increase speed and accuracy. There is a plethora of tools available in the market for Master Data Management (MDM), including, batch/parallel processing which can be used for large volumes of data, as well as  platforms that act as a ‘search engine’ for your data, making it easier to  access valuable data.

Time should also be spent on high value activities, such as data integration. Remove data silos and ensure there is no duplications of effort or data sources. The goal here, once again, is to keep your stakeholders front of mind, and provide these end-users with a unified view of enterprise data.

3. What level of data transformation is required?

For data to be insightful, there may be a degree of data transformation required. In these instances, you need to take the lead and set rules and expectations to ensure all data is transformed into a common format that is usable.

Modern data warehouse technologies, such as Snowflake, leverage the power of cloud computing to separate the physical tables from the compute power. In doing so, end users can load raw data and then perform ELT processes to transform the data. The benefit of this method is that you maintain all available data for future requirements.

4. Who within your organisation can help you make the change happen?

Some believe one of the hardest parts of implementing a robust data strategy is managing the people. Early on in your data strategy, it’s important that you identify ‘Change Evangelists’ – they are the people within your organisation that will lead and enable learning and accountability.

The evangelists that you employ will help you build the business case for change, and will help rally the troops, to ensure that new processes are followed.

5. What technology do you need to bridge the gap?

Lastly, a big piece of the puzzle relates to the technology you employ. There are so many solutions on the market, that it can be hard to distinguish business intelligence tools that allow for true integrated analytics, planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

At this stage, many people seek the assistance of specialists outside of the business who can provide a more objective overview of tools available. Just be sure to select a solution that is future-proofed and will allow you to get your data foundations right, but also provide the options of more advanced features such as AI-augmented insight and foresight.

Remember, you may come up against resistance to change, especially when it comes to the implementation of new and unfamiliar technologies and processes. However, it is important to stress internally that technology is an enabler of empowered decisions. Once your data strategy is implemented, the value you bring to your organisation and its people will be measurable.

If you are finding it difficult to get started on your data management strategy and want to impart greater impact and value on your organisation, why not contact us at Minerva Partners?

We are a Management Consultancy that is laser focussed on business transformation, and we assist CFOs every day to improve their data management, budgeting, forecasting, and planning, allowing them more time to focus on business growth and strategy.

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