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A close up of a data dashboard on a Surface device with a person hands interacting with the screen.Data can tell us interesting stories. It can make us more productive, deliver personalised customer experiences and drive innovation. Its power seems limitless. But when there is so much data available, you can run the risk of overanalysing or focussing on the wrong type. So how do you avoid data just becoming a buzzword? How can it start playing a meaningful role in your business?

Let’s start with the obvious: data is nothing without a context. It is inert. Only when it is analysed in a specific framework does it become information. This is then processed and internalised by individuals to create knowledge.

In the digital world, this relationship doesn’t change. It’s up to your organisation to transform this data into knowledge, then action. That’s how you get a positive return on investment. Make your data relevant and useful by starting with these steps to create organisational change.

Diagram showing how data leads to actionale insight

1.      Set your goals

To harness the full value of data, you need to ensure it is captured accurately, with the end goal in mind. So, the first step should be setting your goals.

Your data strategy will depend on the business problem you’re trying to solve and the environment you work in. This will lead to better understanding the factors and variables of your analysis. Executive buy-in will be the key to success. Ensure you on-board your organisation’s leaders early so you have the right engagement from all stakeholders along the process.

Nationwide’s business savings team’s initial goals were to gain a holistic view of the customer. With Microsoft Dynamics 365, they can manage the whole lifecycle of a customer account while streamlining account services.

“We’re spending less time on admin tasks which gives us the capacity to spend more time on value added activities which our clients appreciate. We now have a wealth of information at our fingertips.”

Anthony Pooley, Customer Relationship Manager, Business Savings at Nationwide Building Society

2.      Plan, plan, plan

As you grow your ambition of leveraging insights to benefit the business, you need to ensure you have an effective data strategy and management plan. This includes how the data will be stored and managed. You need to ensure accessibility without sacrificing security, all while aligning to current policies and regulations.

Also, you need to define a data governance maturity model, including data classification and compliance policies. You can get a head start on this in our data governance guide. Ensure you connect with all business stakeholders and empower them to define the strategy.

Having a maturity model will help ask the right questions and make sure you use the best practice standards and capabilities. This approach is fundamental, and it’s at the core of our Microsoft 365 cloud strategy.

3.      Reduce data silos

Data can be found in different parts of your organisation – marketing, sales, operations and more. The only way to deliver true value is to connect your data together. A solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can give you a 360-degree view of information, creating a single source of truth. What does this mean for your data insights? Real-time and predictive results that help deliver better services and products while making it easier for employees to access the information they need.

Electrical ecommerce site AO.com chose Microsoft Dynamics 365 for its scalability and stability. They also benefit from a single source of data and can extract information to deliver better business and customer value.

“What we get with Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a single view of inventory, a single view of customers. Through some of the advanced analytics and Power BI… [we gain] … the ability to make better and faster actionable decisions about how to trade.”

Carl Phillips: Director of Technology, AO.com

4.      Keep security at the heart

As mentioned, you need to ensure your data is kept safe when stored, managed and in transit. With intelligent security, you can empower your organisation against cyberthreats with machine learning and automation. A 2019 Forrester study commissioned by Microsoft, found our security technology automatically remediates 97 percent of endpoint attacks detected.

With built-in security across platforms, including Microsoft Dynamics 365, you can ensure you’re protected and compliant while employees can focus on high-value tasks, securely accessing the information they need, no matter where they are.

5.      Democratise data skills

A woman using a computer. She has a data dashboard on the screen.You must ensure your whole organisation has the skills to understand data. To take advantage of new information, insights and resources, everyone needs to understand how to use data effectively. This will help build an accessible knowledge network, plus improve services and customer experiences.

It’s not an easy task. But building a data skills learning plan is vital to get the best out of data and to empower employees. The Forrester report on Why Digital Literacy Matters goes in-depth on how to spread data literacy. Dynamics 365 also makes it easy by giving employees a single source of truth. Microsoft Viva Topics uses AI across Microsoft 365 to recognise content, extract important information and automatically organises it into shared topics like projects, processes and customers. It then creates a knowledge network based on relationships, making it easy for employees to find what they need, when they need it.

6.      Build a feedback loop

To ensure your data insights stay relevant and agile, implement a change control process consistent across the organisation. Keep verifying your data strategy against your business plans, goals and with your executive sponsors to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Be ready to adjust. Flexibility and speed of change will determine the difference between frustration and success.

Weave data throughout your organisation

Ultimately the power of data is directly correlated to your strategy and your people. Data doesn’t belong in a different realm. It doesn’t belong to one team or silo. On the contrary, it needs to intertwine with business processes, stakeholders and policies. It needs to reach across business silos and connect together to surface the right information, at the right time. Make sure you embark on the journey as an organisation. The response from this empowerment will surprise you.

Find out more

Learn how to harness the power of data

Find out how the power of data can benefit everyone

Build an effective data strategy

Use data and analytics to innovate

Resources to empower your development team

How to implement a data streaming solution with Azure Streaming Analytics 

About the author

Krizia Ceccobao, a woman in a black dress with dark hair holding pink flowers outside a building.Passionate about marketing and digital business strategy Krizia joined Microsoft to help customers achieving their business goals while getting the most out of their IT investments. She is focussed on raising the awareness around cloud solutions and security best practices. Yoga lover, book worm and travel enthusiast, so far Krizia’s work experience has taught her the importance of teamwork, exemplary leadership and communications skills.

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