The amount of data compiled by a business can be overwhelming and as a result, many companies struggle to organize, analyze, define, protect and leverage their data. Part of that comes from not having a clearly defined data strategy in place – or not knowing how to construct one that works best for your business.
If your current approach to managing your data is not working or if you have not constructed a comprehensive data strategy at all, this article is for you. In it, we will discuss a “four pillars” approach that will help you implement a comprehensive and effective data strategy.
We will define the role each pillar should play when constructing and deploying your data strategy and demonstrate how it will help you make better business decisions.
Typically, in a spreadsheet or traditional BI report, data is often haphazardly organized in multiple rows and columns on a page. What that leads to is manually reviewing row after row and column after column in ways that are outdated and time-consuming. This can be tantamount to searching for a needle in a haystack when you are trying to identify critical findings.
That is why the best way to format your data and truly bring it to life is by visualizing it graphically. This will provide instant visibility into any outliers, trends, and/or issues that require resolution.
Data visualization makes it easier for everyone to understand what the data is showing – especially in these days of shrinking attention spans. It also empowers your colleagues to question why something appears to be inaccurate, and then allows them to drill down to discover the root cause of the issue.
Governance is the most crucial factor to consider whenever faced with what is referred to as “reporting anarchy.” Without a single source of truth, business users can easily lose confidence in data. And without proper governance, business logic is often duplicated in reports and lacks standardization, resulting in your data becoming completely unmanageable.
Taking a data model approach to governing all data, metrics, and relationships based on a single source of truth will ensure accurate reporting and analytics. It will also serve as a standardized process for developers and analysts by providing them with a methodology that stretches across all corporate data and formula logic.
As a result, everyone will follow the same procedures and standards. With proper governance, each team member’s view of the data is limited to only what is applicable to them based on the security defined by your organization.
Formulating a reliable data governance plan ensures that your data will be pulled from the defined source. But do not stop there. Be sure to combine it with the consistent use of predefined measures and KPIs, because once it is removed from the source and manipulated, you can no longer be confident in the numbers.
Every organization faces challenges when trying to make their data and content accessible to as many team members as possible. That is why the third pillar – accessibility – is so important.
Sharing traditional reports in spreadsheets is clunky and leads to endless email exchanges with multiple versions being shared back and forth. Based on the volume of data in a spreadsheet, it can be difficult to share with other team members effectively. There is also the issue of getting the data to the right person – i.e., the Controller, Project Manager, Salesperson, etc. – in the right format. Making it fully accessible to team members in each of those various roles is beyond challenging.
Making data accessible anytime and anywhere to any device provides many quantifiable benefits. Managers can quickly get access to their key metrics and data analysis on their smartphone or tablet in seconds. Analysts can build reports in minutes from a governed data model. Individual alerts can be set up with business-critical report updates without anyone having to login to an application and pull reports on their own.
Providing end users with mobile access to data reports is now a necessity in the workplace. In many industries, users who need real-time access to data are continually shifting from working inside an office to remote work throughout their workday. Construction industry project managers, for example, spend much of their day analyzing spreadsheets and data and then rely on their findings to make important on-the-spot business decisions.
Be sure that no matter where they are working, these end users will be able to use any device to review real-time data and ‘drill down’ to transaction details. This accessibility will allow them to identify trends, correlations, and outliers, which should lead to quantifiable business process improvements. It will also empower them to make critical decisions in real-time as needed.
Avoiding prolonged data preparation and refreshes are ongoing challenges for many businesses. Spending days per month to extract and deliver data from a spreadsheet to end users is not only time consuming, but it also creates unnecessary delays in decision making. And like many things in life, timing is everything!
Without a centralized and governed data model, at month end close, for example, several reports may need to be refreshed multiple times, taking countless additional hours to process.
This is where timeliness clearly establishes itself as the fourth pillar. Incrementally loading data and establishing a short refresh schedule will ensure that your approach is strategic and organized in consistent ways. Partitioning data means that only the data that is changing in the current period(s) is updated.
Why? Because historical data does not need to be refreshed continually throughout the day. One refresh cycle (in a matter of minutes) may update hundreds of reports and dashboards at once, providing all users immediate updates without having to refresh each report individually.
The bottom line is any data report that takes days or even hours to run is unacceptable in 2021. Successful and competitive businesses must be able to review data and make strategic decisions quickly. Dramatic month end close improvements will be experienced in time savings thanks to the transition from manual to automated data analysis and reports generation. Today, a process that once took weeks can now be completed in hours, allowing the leadership team to review conclusions and results and make critical business decisions faster.
Using a tool that pulls data from the source, has defined measures and metrics, and improves reporting performance, provides leadership with the information they need to drive the business forward with confidence.
Establishing a Data Modeling Strategy
For corporations looking to make better and faster business decisions, the process of extracting, analyzing, and generating reports around data must be easy to use and innovative. Lean on these four pillars when establishing a data modeling strategy. Supplementing your strategy with the right software solution will provide you with the necessary foundation and framework to help your business leverage its’ data as a strategic asset.
By delivering self-service access to your core data through business intelligence, business users will derive critical insights, pursue hypothesis, and generate reports and analytics dashboards quickly and easily. Empowering your organization to become data driven, and partnering with an innovative data analytics and business intelligence solution provider, will result in improved operational efficiencies, and increased profitability and bottom line revenue growth.
About the Author:
Paula Fredericksen, Customer Success Director, Preferred Strategies