Data is central to everything that we do today, and it’s no surprise that most organizations want to use data to their competitive advantage. However, there are multiple steps involved for data to efficiently aid the decision-making process. These focus areas involve making sure quality data is available, usable and secure. 

Define Your Business Needs

First and foremost, define your business needs by focusing on the most important objectives. Then, go from there. For example, if one of your objectives is to improve the ‘search’ efficacy so that users are able to find information faster, the questions and observations that stem from this should guide your data needs. What are the current search system’s capabilities? What’s the usage pattern and frequency? What’s the overall latency for the results to show? The simple test is whether you are able to measure your key results, which ultimately should reveal whether you are making progress towards meeting your business objectives.

Build Single Version of Truth with Governance and Quality

Once business needs have been defined, focus on collecting and building a single version of the truth for your team to rely upon. Ensure the data is of good quality – meaning it’s complete, unique, consistent and timely. For example, is all of the search usage data gathered and captured in one system? Is it consistent regardless of the system it’s being collected from? Does it have latest user search information? This is going to be the foundation of your data project. Though it could also take the most amount of time, it is crucial to have quality data secured through robust access controls.

 Regulate Data Use and Compliance

During this step, you should form guidelines around who has access to which data and what data is retained; when it’s destroyed, how it is shared, and how it’s secured. Let’s take an example of an application that stores all email communication sent to your employees. As part of data use regulations, identify if the emails need to be stored for any legal purpose and if yes, the number of years it should be stored. You should also confirm whether there are any legal or regulatory restrictions on use of the data (for example, license restrictions on third-party data or data privacy restrictions on the use of the specific data).

Build and Communicate Insights

The final step is to build and communicate the insights. Building a data story is key – it should include the main insight, the target audience and what actions or decisions can be taken. The insights should be built with visualizations that support the main insight. For example, if you are a product manager and you want to know how to improve the adoption of your product, your data story must highlight current adoption blockers, and what decisions you can take to address such blockers and improve the overall adoption.

Carefully following these steps can help data work for you and not the other way around. It is a way to empower employees by democratizing access to a gold mine of insights at their fingertips.