Jonathan Westley

Member Article

Four key themes to boost data-driven innovation and growth in 2021

As 2021 begins, the UK is faced with significant change. Alongside all the disruption caused by the global pandemic, Britain will also emerge from the Brexit transition period into a new environment outside the European Union. This new reality will present many challenges and opportunities, as the nation comes to terms with its new circumstances.

Chief among these is to establish the UK as a world-leading data economy, a vision which has been set out clearly by the government via the launch of the UK National Data Strategy - a mechanism to stimulate economic innovation and growth. For this vision to materialise, businesses and other organisations will need to get a data strategy in place to succeed in this new environment. To my mind, there are four key areas that businesses should focus on in 2021 to create a pathway to success.

1. Consistent data standards

For years we have known that data standardisation is key to organisations unlocking the value of their own data, and ultimately entering the data ecosystem. However, many organisations still have a long way to go.

There is significant opportunity for industry players to work closely with government to assist in this, by creating a set of standards for treating and referencing data. Initially these could cover priority areas, including identity indicators and standards around cleaning and validating data.

Agreeing on a common approach to these would help organisations take control of their own data and pave the way to greater data sharing both internally, across departments, and externally with other organisations.

2. Developing better data skills

Any discussion about digital skills often turns to what schools and universities are doing, but we need to broaden our perspective if we’re to effectively tackle the shortage.

But it’s not just about cultivating the right data skills within educational institutions. Businesses also have a role to play in future-proofing the UK’s workforce. They must place a fresh emphasis on building data capabilities amongst their existing employees at all levels.

Failure to do so could see data knowledge concentrated in the hands of a few, who are then relied upon to support the entire business. This is unsustainable and can lead to issues if these people move elsewhere.

3. Improving the availability of data

There is no upside for organisations in gathering data for data’s sake – this is a time consuming and costly activity. However, they do need to be able to experiment within a framework if they’re to develop products or solutions that present real value to people.

And this is the real crux of the matter. People – or indeed any data sharers – need to see how sharing their information will benefit them or the communities they live in. Increasingly, people are prepared to share information if they understand the terms of the exchange and place a high enough value on the product or service they receive in return.

Organisations also need to face into the risks that people may perceive in how the data is used, shared or stored. In this scenario, if the value outweighs the risk, they are more inclined to share. This is known as the ‘consent equation’

4. Demonstrating responsible data use

Organisations must use data responsibly. They need to demonstrate integrity through better data stewardship, transparency and accuracy, in order to build trust. This in turn will deliver better business outcomes. The major challenge for brands today is to establish enough trust with their customers so that they willingly share the data businesses need to create better products and services.

Helping create a vibrant UK data economy

At a time of great uncertainty, what is clear is that we are not going back to the way we were all doing business before. If businesses are to survive the immediate fallout from the pandemic and thrive into the future, they have to understand their new, post-Covid landscape.

Understanding and driving value from data will be paramount. It will enable businesses to identify and comprehend shifts in customer behaviour, and better understand the rapidly evolving marketplace in which they operate.

Increased standardisation, enhanced data skills, people better motivated to share their data and safeguards put in place to maintain their long-term confidence, will allow more businesses to deploy data in new, innovative ways that lead to the creation of a vibrant UK data economy.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jonathan Westley .

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