What is your business data strategy?
This question is rarely asked as part of the buying cycle for business systems. But this question will determine your long-term competitive capabilities so it requires careful consideration.
If we think about how markets have changed over the years, having the ability to identify and respond to new business opportunities quickly is more critical than ever before. That becomes quite a challenging task, however, when you can’t see all of your data in one place.
Maybe you’re starting from scratch, evaluating your data strategy, or thinking about replacing the business applications you currently use. Wherever you are on your journey, here are some things to think about to help you make your choice.
1. Establish your goals and data requirements
This helps you form your strategy and focus on what information you need to gather. Bring all of the relevant stakeholders into your strategy and be transparent and communicative with them.
Fundamentally, when you get to the heart of the business strategy question, you need the right sort of data to power the answer. You might be collecting the wrong data, or you might not need to collect all of it. Once you’ve figured out what data you need, you need to ensure you have the right business applications to analyse the information and help drive better decision making.
2. Build your strategy securely
When you choose your strategy, keep security at the heart. It’s important to have the right tools and systems in place to protect your data, including customer data. Make sure you are compliant with any regulations and laws, such as GDPR. Also, think about where the data is being stored and how it is protected. For example, Azure is built secure by design, with controls and services that help you protect against cyberthreats.
3. Think about your solutions
There are three core strategies that we see in play today, all with different benefits and disadvantages.
No matter your current footprint of business applications, this is a fantastic opportunity to make some intentional decisions about your business application estate.
Best of breed
When you take a siloed approach, it means you are delegating your business strategy to an individual business unit. You may end up with a ‘best of breed’ solution for said department. But sometimes this is not with the whole organisation in mind.
These choices then need to be integrated with the rest of the organisation’s business system estate. This leads to the difficult decision of balancing the cost of integration, with the wider benefits, and needs of the business.
If you go with this choice, look at services that have high integration to other business systems, or solutions that are able to growth out into other areas easily.
A cluster solution
A lot of organisations go for something we like to call a cluster solution. This means that they’ve implemented something that carries across different siloes. For example, an ERP solution connects financial, supply chain, manufacturing, and warehouse functions.
This gives you higher levels of connectivity, and removes some of the integration costs that you’d get with a best of breed approach. Cluster solutions may come with a larger scope of work, but provide a great benefits.
If you go with this choice, look for those that can adapt to meet a wider scope that doesn’t fit into a single module or area.
Best of breadth
Very few organisations have implemented a platform solution that works across the whole business. This is because a best of breed approach has only been available for the last few years.
By taking this approach, you are making a strategic choice with your data and future business applications in mind. For example, a platform solution may be disguised as a customer service system replacement. The implementation may be perceived as a job for the Customer Service Director, but it is in fact an opportunity to define your whole data strategy and future proof your business applications.
Whatever your choice, it needs to be a conscious one. Make sure all stakeholders are involved in the discussion from the start.
4. Be guided by your data strategy
The critical part here, is that all decisions should be guided by your overall strategy. Without this question being asked, the natural progression will be for best of breed, intentionally or otherwise.
This is the opportunity to set the course and get it right for your organisation. A platform view will show you what is going on across your business and not just one silo at a time. By having a holistic view you can respond more easily and with confidence to emerging business opportunities.
5. Futureproof your organisation
With the world moving into an age of AI, rapidly changing environments, and consumer expectations, its critical now more than ever that data is at the centre of a business strategy. How much data you have and how you use it will directly influence how you compete in today’s and the future market.
Also, make sure your employees are skilled to get the best out of these systems. Whether it’s a virtual event or training day, learning path or certification, empower your employees to futureproof themselves for the future digital workplace.
Get new business opportunities
This is the opportunity to set the course and get it right of your business – to be able to see what is going on in all of your business units and not just one segment at one point in time. Having the ability to respond to new business opportunities smartly using data is more critical than ever.
Look for the solution you can use to drive your business forward by using smart intelligence and data.
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About the authors
Nicola is Customer Engagement Cloud Specialist at Microsoft. She is passionate about sustainability and helping customers to achieve more by streamlining their business process to become more efficient.
Jason is the Commercial Lead for Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain, and Human Resources. He helps customers adopt strategies and solutions to their modern business application landscape, using Microsoft Dynamics 365 to support innovation, growth, and provide ongoing return on investment.
He helps key corporate clients see how Microsoft and Dynamics 365 enhances their organisations ability to rapidly adopt digital transformation initiatives and lay the foundation for a connected, digital future.