How many of you have read articles, joined webinars, and even attended conferences to learn how to initiate or improve your analytics initiatives? You have undoubtedly heard that the most important aspect of your analytics journey is setting a clear data strategy upfront. You may have even heard that lack of a clear strategy is the most common reason data initiatives fail. But as important as this step is, it can be overwhelming, and even counterintuitive, when you are eager to just get started.
Time Spent Upfront Leads to Long-Term Success
So why is setting a clear strategy so important? Well, it’s difficult to plan your journey if you do not know where you want to go. It’s even more difficult if you don’t know who is driving or what mode of transportation you should use. The journey becomes still more challenging if everyone has different ideas about when to take a pit stop or what music to play. With so many unknowns, and even conflicts, the journey is almost certainly doomed. However, the journey can get back on track when someone takes the lead, chooses a destination, outlines an itinerary, and creates the perfect playlist to accommodate everyone’s different tastes.
Your analytics journey is very similar. Your desired future state will be unique to your institution, and it depends largely on your current state, or your starting line. Different team members will bring differing perspectives to the table. And there is no shortage of tools and technologies to drive you along the path—or drag you down a dead end. This is why spending time at the beginning to establish a comprehensive strategy is so important for the success of your data initiative.
The Five Ws—and then some
When you first begin to define your data strategy, it feels like you are asking more questions than you are answering. Just a few of those questions may be:
- Who should define the strategy?
- What is most important in your strategy?
- When do we start building reports and dashboards?
- Where does ownership lie—internally or with an external partner?
- Why spend so much time upfront when we could dive right in?
By exploring questions like these internally—before getting started with your data initiative—you will be better equipped to actually start moving on your analytics journey. This means you’ll be able to move faster when you have so many of these questions already answered. And you are less likely to have to backtrack to resolve any issues caused by a lack of planning. To put it simply, you are almost guaranteed to reach your goals more quickly by spending time upfront planning your approach.
Beware of a Standardized Strategy
You may be thinking, “If setting a data strategy is so important, and many other organizations have already done it, isn’t there some kind of template I can follow?” While this would be great in theory, the truth is, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to setting your analytics strategy. There may be companies out there who offer a standardized approach to your data strategy, but beware of these services. Your organization is unique, and as such, your data strategy be, too. If a vendor is trying to make your strategy fit into their standard approach, you may be sacrificing some of that uniqueness. After all, there may be components in their template that do not apply to your strategy. Or there may be special considerations that apply to your journey but would not make sense for anyone else. This is why creating a custom and personalized data journey is best.
So, am I just on my own?
No! There are many resources that can serve as great inspiration when it comes time to building your own strategy. Additionally, there are many reliable vendors who can help you craft your own personalized strategy. The key is looking for a trusted partner who will take the time to learn about your organization and build a strategy that meets your individual needs both now and well into the future.
Lodestar Technologies is both a data warehouse and analytics provider as well as a strategic partner for our clients. We believe in providing a guided approach to analytics, beginning with crafting a unique data strategy that supports the organization’s overall strategic initiatives. Visit us at lodestartechnologies.com to learn more. And be sure to take a look at our Guide to Building a Data Strategy for ideas and inspiration as you plan your journey!