Data Maturity before Digital Maturity

Data MaturityI recently wrote about Digital Maturity vs Digital Transformation where I proclaimed that its more important to set your goal for digital maturity rather than just push your organization toward digital transformation initiatives.  In this post, I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of digital maturity: Data Maturity. Before you can even hope to be digitally mature, you must reach data maturity.

What is Data Maturity?

Data maturity is the point at which you’ve been able to thoroughly and explicitly answer the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ of your data.  You’ve got to understand the following:

  • where the data came from?
  • where is it stored (and where has it been stored)?
  • how it was collected?
  • how it will be accessed?
  • who will access it?
  • who has had access to it over its lifetime?
  • what type of data is it?
  • if personal data, what types of permissions do you have to use it?
  • when was the data collected?
  • when was the data last reviewed?
  • when was the data last accessed?
  • how do you know the data is accurate?

There are many more questions to ask / answer in the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ universe, but hopefully you get the point. If you can’t answer these questions to build up your data’s “metadata”, then you haven’t reached maturity.

Data maturity requires proper data governance, data management and proper data processes (see previous writings here on those topics).   Like I’ve said before, i’m not an expert in these areas but I do know good data management when I see it – and most organizations don’t have good data management practices/processes.

Data Maturity is more than just technology initiatives though. Its more than having the right systems in place. Data Maturity requires organizational readiness as well as technology readiness; and the organizational readiness is generally the harder of the two data maturity paths to complete.

I’m not going to get into organizational readiness vs technology readiness in this post (I’ll save it for a later post) but just know that there are a lot of parallel paths (and sometimes perpendicular paths) that you need to take to get to digital maturity – and data maturity is one of the important aspects to focus on while working toward that digital maturity goal.

Are you working towards data maturity along the path to digital maturity?

Digital Maturity or Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation or Digital MaturityEveryone’s working on digital transformation projects.  Much like ‘big data’ or ‘machine learning’, digital transformation is a phrase that you hear every day across just about every organization. The problem with digital transformation is that its not the end goal….you don’t set a goal of ‘being transformed’ especially when you’re looking at the digital space.  Rather, you set goals around engagement, conversion and revenue that are better / higher than what you have today.  You shouldn’t be focused on ‘transforming’ your business but on maturing your business into one that can operate in the digital model for the long run. This requires much more than digital transformation; it requires digital maturity.

MIT Sloan Management Review defines digital maturity in the following way:

Digital maturity is the process of your company learning how to respond appropriately to the emerging digital competitive environment.

Part of any good digital transformation initiative should include aspects that help an organization and its people internalize knowledge about the digital landscape, but most times it stops short of converting information about the digital world into knowledge (and ultimately into wisdom).  According to the DIKW Pyramid, there are three steps required to turn data into wisdom: data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom.   Digital Transformation often stops short of creating ‘digital wisdom’ which is what’s necessary for digital maturity to occur. Without wisdom, you’re organization hasn’t quite reached the level of digital maturity needed.

With digital maturity, rather than chase new digital projects an organization just is digital.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the organization will have all the answers to all things digital, but it does mean that the people within the organization will have the skills and the tools to find those answers quickly and act upon the digital needs of the organization rather than just talk about the digital needs.

Deloitte released a study recently based on three years of research into digital maturity. In that study, they asked respondents to rate their digital maturity levels from a scale of 1 to 10 with a rating of 1 to 3 being ‘early maturity’, 4 to 6 being ‘developing maturity’ and 7 to 10 being ‘mature’. In the survey, only 25% of respondents rate their organization in the ‘mature’ category.  You can see the outcome of the survey in the image below.

Deloitte's Digital Maturity Survey

A few more interesting stats from that survey:

  • 34% of respondents from organizations at early stages of digital maturity say that their company spends more time talking about digital business than acting on it.
  • Digitally maturing companies are also far more likely than are other organizations—76% of digitally maturing companies versus 32% of businesses at early stages of digital development—to use technology to conduct business in fundamentally different ways
  • Digitally maturing organizations also take a longer view on digital strategy: They are twice as likely as early-stage companies to develop these strategies with time horizons of five years or more.
  • More than 70% of digital maturing businesses are using cross-functional teams to organize work and charging them with implementing digital business priorities. This compares to less than 30% for early-stage organizations

There’s some interesting results there there.  Digitally mature organizations are planning for the ‘long game’ rather than (or maybe in addition to) running around trying to figure out how to get a customer in the door next week. Additionally, these companies with digital maturity are using technology to do things differently than they have done things before.

Digital transformation shouldn’t be the end goal for organizations. You don’t want to just transform into a ‘digital’ company doing things the same way you always have. You want to fundamentally do things differently using technology. That’s what digital maturity is.

This might require new organizational constructs (cross-functional teams, etc), a rethinking of digital platforms (do you really need 50 different martech platforms?) and/or chasing different projects/initiatives.  Reaching digital maturity means going through growing pains, but in the end it should be worth the pain to be able to ‘live digitally’ as an organization.

Don’t just settle for digital transformation for transformation sake. Set the main objective of your digital transformation projects to be digital maturity. Join the Deloitte respondents taking the long view and using technology to change the way you do business.

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