Author: Andy Burston

In a world of constant Digital Transformation, it is inevitable that as part of that process you will be transforming or moving data in support of business and change objectives. You will also need different types of data to remain informed as to the progress of any changes, projects, and programmes. If you cannot do this you will not be able to tell success from failure, spot deliveries that are going off track and ultimately introduce transformative change to enable business.

This post focuses on business-related data, the sort that makes everyday operations happen and will likely be within your scope of transformational change as part of your Digital Transformation programme. There are questions to answer and pitfalls to look out for. 

If you recognise the following within your current operation, then you will want to check that your Digital Transformation plans are sound and that they don’t require early remedial action.

Who owns the data?

Ownership takes many forms, however, from a digital transformation success perspective, data requires a governance approach that matches business requirements and use. We also need to consider how the ownership of the data might change over time.

How well can you identify the alignment of data ownership to business operations and the organisation on the ground?

Data ownership needs to be pitched at a sufficiently empowered stakeholder level in the business, someone with the ability to make information risk decisions on behalf of their team and you. This will include how, where and when we create, edit, modify, share and restrict access to data.

An additional risk would be that we go down to a far too granular level that discusses the merits of a particular file or file type. This wastes time, so set some ground rules and expectations that exceptions to the rule for your Digital Transformation plans will be dealt with later, once the bulk of the challenge has been addressed, a kind of extension of the 80/20 rule. Adjust the approach and prioritise the tasks that will bring the biggest benefit.

Ideally, you need data ownership to be designed in a way that enables and involves business stakeholders in technology decision-making, bringing them with you on the Digital Transformation plan, and having them on hand when you need their input.

Once you have established how data supports business and indicates ownership, your approach will need to consider any compliance and data protection obligations, particularly for personal data processing. 

However, at this early stage and to avoid rework, it is recommended that you involve your data protection and security teams in Digital Transformation planning. Get them to bring the key records they maintain (Record of Processing Activity, Information Asset Registers, Risk Registers, etc.) and encourage them to realise and elaborate on their value from Digital Transformation, not just compliance, perspectives.

How well do you classify your data?

Data ownership, exploitation and management are nothing without classification. If the data within your databases, apps, file share, email, and SharePoint has no real labelling in support of business criteria, Digital Transformation is going to fail.

Data classification enables the ability to store, retrieve and exploit data effectively. It is not just the act of deploying a tool or application feature to ‘label’ a record, but more an approach to empowering business users to understand and evidence the value the data has today and in the future.

This will require a classification policy, consideration of training, briefing and corporate objectives to inform how the information the end user sees has value to the organisation. External compliance factors also need to be baked in.

Most often it is the end user who is best placed to make a call as to real-world value, not the auditor, CISO, Data Controller, IT consultancy, contractor or Strategic Partner. 

Imagine the police officer writing a crime report, or the nurse updating a patient care record; in both cases, they will have the greatest appreciation as to the value of the information and the data that will ensue. It is here, for reasons of practicality and scale, that we also need to begin to consider the benefits of automation as part of your Digital Transformation tool set.

If you have Digital Transformation objectives to host and present data in new systems, having the ability to classify data at scale will be instrumental to success, limiting any negative impact of change.

Have you considered Asset Realisation within Digital Transformation planning?

This is the more ethereal reason that your existing data approach might fail you, but it neatly ties up aspects of ownership, classification and value in one term.

Asset realisation is about understanding and monitoring the value of data to the organisation. It is about being able to evidence how data within your Digital Transformation strategy and plans, will directly contribute to the achievement of business objectives.

Be wary of Digital Transformation approaches that are vague on how, when and why data will be newly provided within target systems and infrastructures. If you find this, the approach is doomed to fail. Migration (business, technical or otherwise) needs to be planned and tested.

The days of “just have a go” and letting the users move the data “as and when” will result in two outcomes. The first will be an inability to identify when or if the transformation has been successful and a painful change experience for users, the second will be a risk to your compliance objectives and potential loss of control.

Given the scale of data that UK HMG, public and private sectors now have to deal with, true asset realisation and management is likely to require investment in expertise and tooling. Discovery and Management Information (MI) is needed to give the complete picture of data completeness, accuracy, risk and currency. 

Digital Transformation: No one person has all the answers, no single solution fits the bill

Digital Transformation is often complex, and the risks to delivery and business adoption can be unforeseen. There are more data and information related challenges as part of Digital Transformation planning that we will cover.

Keep dropping by for ideas from our teams as to how to handle transformation complexity, resolve and avoid delivery risk, as well as how to build intuitive solutions and approaches for business success.

CGI has the experience to drive your Digital Transformation and has done so on behalf of our clients within government.

Contact us to learn more about how CGI can help drive your Digital Transformation.