This blog is one of an eight-part series of blogs – read our introduction to see how this blog fits into the series.
On any data project, NEVER start with the data…ALWAYS start with the business requirements. If you start with the data, you’ll either confuse yourself before you’ve even begun, or you’ll do what you’ve always done, and find out what you’ve always known. Instead, start with the business requirements.
What are the business goals?
The data strategy needs to align with the business strategy. In some businesses, there is a business strategy document that can be directly referred to…but often there isn’t. If there isn’t, the types of questions you need to be considering are:
- What’s the vision for the business over the next few years? This could be the end goal – for instance, to achieve a certain revenue or market share within X years, to launch new products/services, to launch into new markets/regions, or similar.
- What business strategies are you implementing, or planning to implement? This could be orientated around acquisition of new clients, upselling/cross-selling of current clients, and retention of existing clients. Or it could be about efficiencies, cost-cutting, and maximising economies of scale.
- How does the business make & save money? Every business is different, and every business model is different, so it’s important to understand what business levers can be pulled/pushed to increase profit for the business. For instance, some businesses sell monthly subscriptions, some sell fixed fee projects, some get a commission, some receive a kickback from intermediaries, some are publicly funded, and so on.
- What are the business priorities? These are the things that are the most crucial to the business in the next few years. For instance, this could be time-bound like launching a new product by a certain date or achieving a certain goal by the end of the year. Or there could be a part of the business that is under-performing that needs to be focused on. It’s important to know what the business cares about the most.
Different people within a business will use data in different ways. We can think about this in two ways:
- Data users by business function
- Board or Leadership Team – they could need key metrics on business performance to make strategic decisions on where to invest/recruit vs where to cut/stop activity
- Finance – they could need data to track money in/out and profitability by customer/product/region
- Sales – they could need data to track leads, conversions, and sales by person/team/product/region
- Marketing – they could need data to identify opportunities and track campaign response rates and conversions
- Operations – they could need data to track calls, service requests and complaints by person/team/region
- Technology – they could need data to track downtime
- And so on…
- Data users by role
- Managers – they could need summarised metrics to compare their performance vs last year/month and to compare across teams/products/regions, on a weekly basis
- Practitioners – they could need detailed data on their specific customer/project/case/call, on a daily basis
We need to understand which people/teams need to be engaged when understanding the business requirements for data – so make a list.
What are the business requirements for each data user?
Now you know who you need to speak to, what do need to ask them? We start with these questions:
- How do you help the business to make or save money? We want to know the primary purpose of their role
- What decisions/actions will you make/take in your job using data? We want to know exactly what business levers they can pull/push, to really understand what’s important and relevant to them
- How often are you using data to make decisions/actions? We want to know the frequency of data updates they need
- How do you access the data today? We want to know if it’s on a mobile, laptop, wall-mounted TV screen or similar
- What data sources are important to you, and why? We want to know which data is used today, and how
- What works well today? We want to know what they value, and why
- What doesn’t work well today? We want to know what they’re frustrated or limited by, and why
- How might your data needs change in future? We want to know how their jobs could evolve so we can plan solutions that are future-proofed
- What would enable you to do your job better/quicker/easier? We want to know their ideas for improvements
These questions often open interesting areas to explore, prompting further questions to ensure we fully understand their requirements.
Every project has some ‘must have’ elements that can be used to measure if a project has been successful or not – these are the things that must be delivered, or rules that must be adhered to, for the business users to consider the project to be a success.
Critical success factors could include things like:
- Data access – whatever the technology solution might be, the business users might require a defined level of access to view/change the data. For instance, for some businesses this might be 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Whereas for other businesses, this might be during normal working hours in the UK.
- Data timeliness – the business users will probably require access to data on a certain frequency, depending on their job role. For instance, a call centre might want real-time data. Whereas a finance team might want data in monthly updates.
- Data backups – whatever the technology solution might be, the business users will probably require a robust backup of all data, to minimise the risk of data losses. For some businesses, this might be daily overnight backups, deleted on a rolling monthly basis.
- Legal compliance – the business users will probably require any data solution to meet their relevant data-related regulations in the jurisdictions they operate in. For instance, GDPR in the UK and Europe.
- Role-based permissions – the business users will probably want to be able to restrict who can access which data. For instance, finance data might only be able to be accessed by the Finance team. For instance, a client will only be able to access their own data, not other clients.
- Data outputs – the business users will probably require dashboards, analytics, and reports to be accessible by many people within the business, and perhaps by clients too. As these viewers are unlikely to be data experts, these data outputs will need to be intuitive, simple, and visual.
- Scalable & flexible – the business users will probably require a solution that can evolve as the business evolves, so a solution that is modular and can be developed further.
Depending on your business there could be many more, or different, critical success factors to consider.
Every project has risks. To even be in business requires risk. So, what types of risk might be relevant to data within your business? Think about things like:
- Data security – there’s a risk data might be lost, changed, or stolen, either intentionally or accidentally, and either by internal staff or external parties
- Data quality – there’s a risk that data might be missing, incomplete, inaccurate, incorrectly formatted, or out-of-date
- Data confidentiality – there’s a risk that some data might be commercially sensitive, private, or confidential, and therefore only able to be seen by certain individuals, so data access needs to be restricted, controlled, and monitored
- Business continuity – there’s a risk that a loss of data access might prevent the business from performing critical operational business functions for its customers/suppliers
- Regulations – there’s a risk that a data breach, or incorrect data usage, could result in fines, customer loss, or negative press coverage
Depending on your business there could be other data risks to consider too.
Now, you’re ready to go to #2 Data Source Review
Now that you understand the business requirements, you need to explore the data sources. So, check out our next blog in this series for some simple tips on how to map your data sources, so you understand what’s available, accessible, and relevant.
Well, you’re in the right place. We can run the Discovery & Design programme for your business. The benefits of outsourcing to us are:
- OBJECTIVITY – we bring a fresh pair of eyes to your business and we’re unhindered by office politics, historical decisions, and legacy systems
- INDEPENDENCE – we’re technology-agnostic, so we can give you an independent view, with no vested interest in you selecting, or staying with, a certain vendor, tool, or platform
- AWARD-WINNING DATA CONSULTANTS – we’ve done this before…for 75+ projects and for 50+ businesses, so we can bring our wider experience to the mix
When we run a Discovery & Design programme for one of our clients, it typically takes 4 weeks, depending on the scope of the project. Most businesses want results quickly and simply…so that’s what we do – we worry about the complexity, so you don’t have to.