Q&A with Barbara Wixom

Barbara WixomPrincipal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research

Q: How Can I Establish a Great Data Strategy for my Company?

At MIT CISR, we work closely with CDOs around the world who are actively formulating and executing contemporary data strategies. About two years ago, we began actively researching data strategy, and we have learned that contemporary data strategies:

  1. should both enable and inspire business strategy (Many CDOs use the data strategy process to influence business vision and plans.)
  2. represent a relatively new concept (About two-thirds of our board member’s data strategies represent either their company’s very first data strategy – or a major refresh from what the company had in place.)
  3. should reflect the company’s current state of data maturity (Companies just beginning their data journeys create data strategies that help establish a data vision and associated data foundations such as a central data lake and master data management; the most mature companies create data strategies that identify how data might enable new business models and innovative data monetization pursuits.)

In 2018, the CISR CDOs who serve on the MIT CISR Data Research Advisory Board published an article called “How to Create a Successful Data Strategy” that describes four basic principles. First, “the journey is as important as the destination.” The data strategy process is a chance to prompt data conversations, educate executives, and identify exciting new data-enabled opportunities for the organization. Second, “one size may not fit all.” Data leaders may need to adapt a data strategy for application across an organization that is large or decentralized. Third, “be prepared to change the tires while the car is moving.” Organizations must proactively establish ways to maintain alignment of data and ever-changing business strategies to keep the data strategy relevant over time. Finally, the most compelling data strategies articulate exactly how data will generate economic value—specifically and uniquely—for an organization. We call this final principle “show me the money.”

To learn more, we invite you to read the article on the MIT CISR website; the website version includes board member commentary about the four data strategy principles.

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