We are now living in a world that is increasingly driven by data thanks to the emergence of digital and cloud-based technologies and the proliferation of social mobility. As a result, there’s a dizzying amount of data at our fingertips.

Data is the future

The great news is that companies are finally beginning to understand the power and value of data as a business asset and how it plays a fundamental role in competing in the age of the customer. It’s no coincidence that five of the most valuable companies in the world today are based on data.

What’s also heartening is that many forward-thinking boards and executives are now starting to recognise that, in order to compete in a digital-driven market, data is fundamental to everything and now deserves a permanent seat at the top table.

But where do you start with data?

With the vast array of data available and a competitive landscape driving ongoing tactical demands, focusing on developing a proper data strategy is crucial, but can be a big task.

On the one hand, the more data you have, the better. But the bigger the business, the more diverse the data which then requires more focus on data quality and governance. Couple that with embedding new technologies like ‘Marketing Automation Platforms’ and new techniques such as machine learning to support analytics and insights and you have increased capability, but also significantly more complexity.

So how do you focus on the right data to develop the right conversations to target the right customers through the right channels?

The good news is, depending on where you are at in your data journey, becoming more data-driven can become a reality faster than you think. A Data Strategy, when properly understood and implemented, focuses the business on the right things, creates a single source of truth and provides a framework to refine and prioritise resources to ensure you can have tailored, relevant conversations with your customers.

While this can seem a little overwhelming - it doesn’t have to be. It’s about breaking things down really simply into micro-segments which will help deliver superb customer experiences when it matters most for your business, at key moments in time. It’s about knowing what questions to ask of the data to ensure you are moving forward on your journey to customer centricity. And sometimes it’s about deliberately doing less.

Top questions to ask yourself when developing a data strategy:

  • The Roadmap: Do you have a plan of where you want to go with your data? Is that supported from the top down in your business?
  • Do the ‘So What’ test: Are your analytics and outputs actionable? Can they be executed to create real value?
  • The Big Picture: While you may already be doing tactical activities, are they adding long-term value to your customers and your business? Are they on brand and in line with your future vision?
  • Know the Steps: Are your plans achievable and realistic? Do you know how you’re going to achieve them? Don't be afraid to ask other companies about their lessons learned and war stories!

Data is undoubtedly the new oil of the 21st century. The benefits of employing a data-driven strategy are endless - the consequences of not makes it easier for your competitors to outsmart you. It also leaves you open to a range of data security issues .

Business cultures that are open to innovation, change and really leveraging data to deliver to their customer’s increasing level of expectation are the ones that will stay ahead of the game. But, in the race to get moving quickly, don’t forget your roadmap!