“Without data you're just another person with an opinion”: The importance of getting your data transformation right

Last month saw the highly anticipated Smarter Data meets CX conference hosted by the Marketing Association. International keynote speaker Camilla Björkqvist, EMEA Director Commercial Data Strategy & Execution at Johnson & Johnson, provided her top insights to help nail your data transformation.

Data is complex. There’s no denying the intricacies of it can make any attempt at a transformation an uphill battle. To help out, data strategy expert Camilla Björkqvist outlined her five key tips to getting it right.

1) Firstly, keep it simple

“We have a lot of different ways of trying to explain the data world that we’re working in. From prediciation, AI, standard reporting and self-service reporting, how do you make sure people understand what you’re talking about?” she asks.

For Björkqvist, ensuring that there is clarity and trust in the process needs to be the foundation.

“We have platforms, solutions, expertise and masters. Data is a whole profession in itself. How many times have we met with technology leaders and listened to enthusiastic endorsements of data architecture, only for the business leaders to profess they don’t trust the data?”

The key to getting business leaders within a company to go in to bat for your data strategy is to keep it simple, understandable and digestible, explains Björkqvist.

“There is complexity to data. When we start to talk about what we are going to do to change the organisation's data practises, we cannot show up with a slide show of a million data points.

“We cannot start talking about how we're going to do fantastic things across the platform, when nobody knows how it works.

“I am a firm believer in a maximum of four elements in your data strategy. That's it, because otherwise the simplicity will be gone and you will have lost your audience,” she says.

2) Look to where data makes a difference already

Following simplification, to drive data culture into the organisation, leaders must look to the other things that are driving data transformation, says Björkqvist.

“Data also plays a large part in business operations, predominantly through making sure everybody's working as effectively and as efficiently as possible in manufacturing and operations,” she says.

Digital creates opportunities for many organisations. And for that you need to have the communication in place and the change plan to be able to express what you’re trying to do with data to the wider business.

“You need to find a coalition of the willing, and then create a simple data strategy from there.”

3) Lean on data leaders

Technology owners within a business are the data stewards who can help lead change.

“This seems so simple,” says Björkqvist. “But this is the most complicated part of any data strategy. Finding a data owner who says, ‘I am accountable for this data source, and someone who understands what happens when this data changes’,” she outlines.

Thus, it's important to find and allocate proper ownership when enacting data transformation within a business.

“We do need to find who's accountable. We do need to find the data stewards and make sure that they are fully aware of what is happening with the data. From there we really understand when our decisions are being made and that they're flowing through in the organisation,” she says.

4) Create a culture of discovery

“Data problems are people problems in disguise,” Björkqvist says.

“Data literacy programs are essential for transformation. It's about the people who are going to make the change in the organisation. The data will always follow if the people decide to make a change,” she explains.

For Björkqvist, the culture in the organisation will also determine what type of steps you can take in your data transformation.

“It is a lot about creating awareness around data. The people will always drive the organisation. From there they can become data enabled,” she adds.

5) Fail fast

Finally, Björkqvist recommends moving fast and delivering every small success.

“Data foundational change is cumbersome. It takes a long time. There's not a lot of budget, and it's quite difficult to create KPIs to show what the value is,” she says.

There will always be sceptics in the data transformation journey, Björkqvist adds. Most stem from individuals in the organisation who don’t see enough of the success that can come from a good data strategy.

“So identify the parts of businesses that are willing to work and try out a new strategy. Start out small, fail fast, learn fast, try new things and then market the hell out of that,” she concludes.