Jason Foster shares some of the key things he’s learnt about delivering value from data. This is based on his years of experience helping 100s of organisations and thousands of individuals to do just that.

A clear summary to craft a roadmap to get value from your data articulated in 9 key lessons.


Lesson #1: Delivering value drives investment and credibility

Whilst it is really vital to do these things, no amount of talking, writing papers, looking at what others are doing, and building plans are worth more than proving you can deliver value and do something different that you couldn’t do before. Align that value to the demands of the business strategy and operations, so that it’s aligned with what the organization is doing and trying to achieve.


Lesson #2: It’s not foundations versus value

It can be really easy to get stuck on the debate on whether to build foundations first or deliver value first. It’s unnecessary to focus on sorting out the data first and only then looking at how to deliver that value. These things must be done in combination. Otherwise, you risk creating an expensive cost center –  just building foundations and not delivering any value off the back of it.


Lesson #3: It’s never too early to communicate

Stakeholder engagement, management and communication are needed regularly and tailored to the audience that you’re focused on. Don’t wait until it’s all sorted to start talking about your strategy for data. Use communication to educate, set expectations, provide clarity, build relationships, get good news, give bad news, and update on progress.


Lesson #4: Not all stakeholders are made the same

Everyone is different. All the people you talk to have different backgrounds, experiences, skills, knowledge, and personal priorities. The business objectives that they’re focused on won’t be the same. Their hopes, their fears will all be different. So, you need to know your audience and manage accordingly. Change how you engage with individuals.


Lesson #5: A bigger budget doesn’t equal a better strategy

Your data strategy budgets should be relative to the size of the opportunities that lie ahead of you. You need to know where that opportunity is in order to get that relative budget. A big budget that builds capabilities but no real tangible benefits don’t tend to end very well. But, a tight focused budget aimed at generating value and the capabilities required to do so wins way more often.


Lesson #6: Like a start-up, product-market fit is really important

Product market fit means finding a good market with a product capable of satisfying that market. Build data product solutions, e.g. a report, or an algorithm that scratches an itch, solves a problem or creates an opportunity for your market and your key stakeholders. Work from your market back to your products, not the other way.


Lesson #7: It’s a team sport, and you need to buy and sell players

There is a breadth of different and complementary capabilities that are needed in data, in a data team, and across the organisation of people that are interacting, engaging with data. Some are very visible and on the pitch, leading from the front. Some very important team members play an integral role in improving the chances of success and delivering results but aren’t leading from the front.

What you need changes over time, depending on the stage of the journey that you’re at and the style of team that you want to create. This isn’t about one single individual that’s going to solve your problems. This is a team sport that needs a mix of diverse, wide-ranging sets of skills and capabilities.


Lesson #8: You need the technology you need, not what the vendor is selling

You wouldn’t borrow a key from someone else’s door to open yours. You need the right key that’s right for your door. Technology can unlock some incredible value, but you need the right key to unlock it. It’s important, therefore, to know the technology gaps that you have, the priority for closing those gaps, and an understanding of which vendor to plug those gaps and whether you need that right now, or the appropriate time to do so.


Lesson #9: Data is a journey, not a destination

There is no destination with data. It’s a journey. The idea is to be in a position to consistently and regularly deliver business value through the application of data.


In summary

So as long as the organisation is operating, there’ll be work to do when it comes to data analytics, insights, building models, and getting value from those. There are many different waypoints on routes of delivering that value. You travel at different speeds, you go at different times, or you may even need to change your mode of travel, but the results are not finite if you’re able to continue to deliver value for as long as the journey goes.

Make sure you enjoy the journey.


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