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Technology goes through hype cycles, and data is no exception. Data is the new oil; the “it” job of the 21st century. We’ve had big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence and more.

But transforming data into company value is hard work. It requires building a unique bridge between technology and business, using the strengths of the former to accelerate growth in the latter. Media stories with statistics about failed data projects abound, but we find that the reality is more subtle than “success” or “failure.” Building data capabilities takes time, and the results aren’t always as easy to identify as a new product launch or a key customer win; they might manifest in the way your organization thinks, operates and interacts with customers. Look out for more customer-centric product development, improved operations, and culture shift that from “taking our best guess” to “let’s look at the data.”

There are a few steps you can take to help ensure your data teams and data projects deliver value in 2022 and beyond.

 

 

 

Provide context

Communicate company and department strategies, missions and values early and often. Data can be helpful in informing strategies and setting goals, but data in a vacuum will do neither. For example, a data team charged with predicting customer churn can focus its energy on creating a highly accurate machine learning model that can dynamically change in-product experiences, or alternatively, it can focus on root cause analyses that empower sales and customer success teams to intervene early. By increasing the exposure your data teams have to your business and finding opportunities for data teams to work alongside businesspeople, the more attuned they will be to what matters, and the better positioned they will be to pick projects and products that help achieve company goals.

Invest in technology that reduces the toil of data work

Every year, data volumes grow, companies acquire new SaaS tools that consume and generate new types of data, and requirements for data privacy and security increase. Add to those changes the burdens of monitoring dependencies, troubleshooting failures and maintaining data quality. Data teams can quickly find that all of their time is consumed with keeping data flowing smoothly, leaving little space for innovation and delivering insights. On the other hand, the landscape of tools available to move, store, and work with data has evolved tremendously, largely driven by the cloud and low- or no-code options. It is now possible to set up a data warehouse instance; import data from a CRM, e-commerce platform, or marketing automation tool; and expose that data in a BI tool without ever touching a line of code. The emerging categories of data ops and ML ops aim to automate and improve upon the orchestration work that remains despite advances in cloud infrastructure – or because of new use cases it makes possible. Starting 2022 off with a review of your data technology, and a consideration of where new tools can replace toil, should result in teams having more time to focus on what matters – delivering value to the business.

Hire a data leader

Hiring a data leader can help to ensure your data investments become a strategic advantage. They will put the right people in the right roles, whether that means recruiting and hiring new employees, upskilling current ones, or organizing teams for maximum impact, and keep them connected to the high-level strategy. They will also have a hand in ensuring that the technology choices and development balance quick wins with longer-term foundation building. Finally, your data leader will be the steward of data-driven thinking from the executive suite to front-line workers.

As you head into the new year, this is a great time to reconsider your data practices. Find ways to set your teams up for success with context-rich ways of working, toil-reducing technology, and domain leadership. With these in place, we believe your data team should be both highly motivated – and well-equipped – to deliver positive impact on your business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cathy Tanimura is Vice President of Analytics & Data Science at Summit Partners. She works closely with the Summit team and our portfolio companies to help create and execute strategies that effectively use data and analytics to drive better decisions and build better products. She is the author of SQL for Data Analysis: Advanced Techniques for Transforming Data into Insights. Prior to Summit, Cathy worked at Strava, where she built an analytics and data science team focused on product, marketing and business development. Previously, she led analytics teams at Okta and Zynga.

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