What constitutes a good data strategy? Is a well thought-out and articulated data strategy really relevant in this rapidly changing big data environment? Or, is a data strategy too easily rendered obsolete?

A data strategy is a vision, one that builds the foundation for a business to organize and manage all of its data to provide the maximum value to the organization. A data strategy is best accomplished through a roadmap. The roadmap should embody the plan to leverage the data that is available to a company to provide a competitive advantage – to build a data-driven organization.

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I love to hike the hills of Southern California. The data strategy vision reminds me of my hiking strategy. I have a vision of where I want to go and I look up periodically to see where the top of the hill is, but most of the time I’m looking 10 to 12 steps ahead, focusing on steady progress. Sometimes I have to adjust my path, but generally I stay on the trail. (Especially in the spring when snakes are everywhere!) If I forget that I’m headed for the top of the hill or forget to check occasionally to make sure I’m still walking in that direction, where will I end up? Probably someplace I don’t want to be!

Every Journey Starts with Strategy

So, how do we build a good data strategy – a vision for data that isn’t subject to the whims of new technology and the vagaries of big data? How do we establish a vision that unifies and solidifies the collaboration between IT and the business?

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”
Yogi Berra

The data strategy becomes reality through the use of a roadmap – a roadmap that is centered on the organization’s business initiatives. Business initiatives drive the enabling and supporting technology capabilities (not the other way around). By understanding business initiatives and needs, solutions can be evaluated to determine the right information, applications and systems that will support those initiatives. Enabling capabilities such as data governance and those associated with enterprise data management (data quality, metadata management, master data management, data architecture, security and privacy, and data integration) are planned and implemented to the degree required to support the business initiatives – no more, no less.

Journey to the Top

The roadmap lays out the plan for all of these capabilities aligned to the business initiatives so that they can be accomplished in an incremental fashion (steady progress). And, as with my hiking, we periodically must look up the hill to ensure we’re headed in the right direction and adjust the roadmap accordingly. Unlike hiking, the business initiatives are subject to change and the roadmap must adjust to accommodate; however, part of the vision should be a solid architecture that is flexible and scalable; one that adjusts to these changes without requiring massive amounts of rework or one that is so brittle that it breaks.

Without a data strategy, the people within an organization have no rules to follow when making decisions that are critical to the success of the organization. The absence of a strategy means that the organization ends up “someplace else” and, most probably; different parts of the organization end up in different, disconnected versions of “someplace else.”

What’s your strategy? Your roadmap?

If you’re still developing your vision or your strategy, I invite you to check out the roadmap services we offer.

This article was originally posted at Teradata.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Teradata retains all copyrights.