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March 3, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 7:46am

How to create a perfect big data strategy to grow your business

List: Putting together the right pieces of the strategy puzzle can be the difference between success and failure.

By James Nunns

The importance of big data and analytics has seen it rise to the top of the decision making tree, becoming a C-level decision to address what should be done.

This has been highlighted in analyst reports by the likes of Kable Global ICT but while the importance of the decisions may require C-level input, a major downfall has been identified as being a lack of a coherent data-driven strategy.

In order to fully exploit the potential of big data in the organisation it is necessary for there to be a strategy in place that aligns business aims with requirements and technology.

CBR has identified five key points for building a data strategy that will help your business be a big data success.


1. Identify the business problem

Identifying the business problem is something that should be done before going down any technology path, simply choosing a technology to invest in because it is in vogue shouldn’t be done – there needs to be a business problem to solve.

The problem is likely to be specific to the industry that the business is in, for example a retail company may need to be able to better identify stock levels, whereas a marketing company may want to be able to better understand the audience it is pitching to.

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A specific list of issues should be drawn up, finding out what exactly top-management want to tackle and what the line of business would benefit from.

Once the business problem or problems have been identified then a strategy for ideas and critical plans can start to take shape.


2. People before technology

Support for a big data strategy needs to come from the top, research from Kable Global ICT Intelligence found that CFOs and CEOs dedicate 6% of their time to typical decision making, however, this increases to 14.6% for big data and analysis decision making, only matched by network and security at 14.2%.

Although this decision making is coming increasingly from the top, it is necessary to think about the people before the technology.

Having the right team on the job to tackle the transformation to a data-driven organisation can either see the project being done internally, or by seeking assistance from consulting firms such as Capgemini or Accenture.

Managers of departments need to be thought of, deploying a new strategy will be a lot more difficult if they have no say on the matter but find themselves forced into it.

Helping them to understand the benefits of the transition will help meet the goal of giving managers tools and interfaces that will help them and their team do a better job.


3. Define policies

Policies are a vital piece of the puzzle and key areas should be thought about such as governance, data ownership and areas of responsibility.

Governance and data ownership have become much more important factors in being a company that is utilising data from potentially multiple sources. Understanding the regulations that are in place will save a lot of pain and suffering down the road.

With regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation just around the corner and Safe Harbour/Privacy Shield re-drawn, businesses will need to tailor policies on data access, where data is stored, permissions and numerous other areas to make sure that they do not breach the rules.

CBR has identified five best practices to avoid breaching data regulation here.

Deciding on a liberal or locked down approach to data access will depend on your business needs and the technology that is being used.


4. Design information feedback loops

This comes as part of the information sharing piece that will help the business identify as a whole how effective the data strategy is, what improvements need to be made, feedback on the technology and direction that needs to be taken.

Test and learn practices should be adopted; these are practices that allow for companies to test ideas in a small number of locations or customers in order to predict impact. Typically these are also referred to as running a proof of concept, giving the technology to a few to test it and see whether it is suitable for the task at hand.

Getting this feedback can be as easy as getting users to fill out a questionnaire, or perhaps a short report.

Getting feedback can help to identify any tweaks that need to be made to potentially tailor the technology more to the business requirements.


5. Plan for the future

In a recent interview with the CIO of, Rex Johnson, told CBR that even while testing new technology to deploy they would be looking six months into the future to identify what will be disrupting next.

The fast changing business landscapes require companies to try and predict what they will need next, so planning for the future is always a good plan to have.

While the business may not be able to accurately predict what will disrupt them next – it can still plan for the future.

This may take the form of anticipating future needs, so is the company growing and will there be a need to be able to scale any tech deployments to be able to accommodate more people.

Although there is a great speed of change that is being forced by technological developments, the company should try and design a long-term roadmap that is aligned with organisational goals.

For example, where does the business want to go? Are there new areas that it is branching out into and does this fit with the technology roadmap?


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