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In the second installment of his series on delivering value through data, Rich Peters shares how to lay a strong foundation for program success.

A data vision statement and a data mission statement are two very powerful tools. They can unify an entire organization’s efforts and act as the focal point that continually guide everyone’s efforts on the things that truly matter.

Without clear data vision and mission statements, an organization’s strategy and execution can quickly become disjointed, leading to frustration, inefficiency and wasted resources.

The Data Vision Statement

The purpose of any vision statement is to ensure that the organization is aligned to a common goal. Visions are a key component of how we communicate. They convey why each organization exists and how value is added to their ecosystem.

The vision statement for your data should support and be consistent with your organization’s overall vision. It provides the answer to “Why do we care about data?” as well as “Why do the data organization and processes exist?”

A data vision statement provides alignment for the short and long term. It is the baseline or “North Star” for your data strategy. The absence of a data vision usually leads to a series of problem issues and costly clean-up efforts.

The Data Mission Statement

While a vision statement tells us WHY we care, a mission statement defines WHAT you are going to accomplish and HOW you are going to accomplish it. The data mission statement supports your data vision statement and ties into your organization’s overall mission statement. It will also be the starting point for your data strategy.

Your data mission statement is more tangible than your data vision statement – it leads to action. Therefore, it is important that your data mission statement clearly communicates WHAT you are going to accomplish, and HOW you are going to accomplish it.

Let’s use Amazon as an example. Amazon has a company vision and mission statement, but not a data vision or data mission statement (they should!).

Amazon’s vision statement: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

Sample Amazon data vision statement: Unify our data to be the Earth’s most accessible online company.

In this sample data vision, there are two key components that support the Amazon business vision. First: unify the data. This makes it clear that the focus is ALL data for Amazon. Second: make the data accessible so that the customers can “find and discover” anything that they want. The sample data vision directly supports the business vision.

Amazon’s mission statement: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.

Sample Amazon data mission statement: Provide our customers with trusted data that is easy to use and understand, integrated across all our products and services.

The example data mission statement highlights two critical elements to online shopping: ease of use and trust. These two elements enable replacing the hands-on “look and feel” or “walk up and down the aisle” approach where the customer believes and trusts that what they are ordering is what they will receive. The other critical component is the “integration” so that the entire transaction, including delivery and returns, is seamless.

The WHAT: data that is integrated across all products and services.

The HOW: use only trusted data that is easy to understand.

Looking at Amazon’s business today, it is my opinion that these data vision and data mission statements would be beneficial. While, most of the core Amazon data for products they sell is relatively good, the same cannot be said for the data provided by their partners in the Amazon Marketplace. There have been issues with accuracy and completeness, and there are also issues with product quality that may have been mitigated with better data and product tracing.

 

Related article:

Delivering Value Through Data: Part 1

by Rich Peters

 

As you can see, the data challenges are not technology challenges; they are core to how the business operates. Data vision and data mission statements would help Amazon put systems and policies in place to ensure the data meets Amazon’s corporate goals and enhances the customer experience.

From this example, you can see that there are some very practical business implications when you develop data vision and mission statements. They lead to clarity, consistency of purpose and direction, while also setting your strategic direction. This builds leadership support and maximizes engagement at all levels of the organization. In addition, the statements connect the short term with the long term, and set clear criteria for investment in the data program.

Steps to Success

The key to effective vision and mission statements is clarity. Remember, the vision statement is the WHY, and the mission statement is the WHAT and the HOW.

How to set a data vision statement that is bold and inspiring:

  1. Brainstorm on WHY and in what ways data supports your organization, and perhaps your industry.
  2. Craft an initial vision that encompasses your data’s relationship to your organization’s vision and mission. Many times, the initial draft is overly wordy.
  3. Revise the draft as needed to simplify it, paying particular attention to how the vision supports the organization and ALL stakeholders,

Key questions to guide you while developing your data vision statement:

  • Is it inspiring and a true North Star for your data?
  • Is it simple and easy to understand?
  • Is it aligned to organization’s vision statement?
  • Is it internally focused? Externally focused? Both?

There is a risk of getting into an “analysis paralysis.” The words of a vision statement are critical, but there comes a point of diminishing returns. Engaging an outside consultant to drive the creation of your data vision statement is sometimes a very wise move.

How to set your data mission statement:

The data mission statement sets the foundation for the next step, your data strategy. It focuses on WHAT and HOW you are going to accomplish your vision.

  1. Craft an initial data mission statement that encompasses your data’s relationship to your organization's vision and mission.
  2. Revise the draft as needed to simplify it. Focus on how it supports the vision, and how it can be implemented.
  3. Ensure it supports the organization and ALL stakeholders.
  4. Playback the mission statement to stakeholders to get further input, and revise as necessary.

Where the vision is aspirational, the data mission statement should be tangible and give clear guidance. You should be able to look at your data mission statement and begin to see how you will approach the four pillars of a data strategy  people, process, technology and data) and the importance of data to your organization.

Key questions to guide you while developing your data mission statement:

  • Is it clear in HOW it can be executed?
  • Does it clarify which data is higher priority?
  • Does it give clear direction for your data strategy?
  • Will it inspire your leadership to devote resources in support of it?

Ultimately, organizations that put the effort into developing clear data vision and mission statements lay the groundwork that is critical to success. It shows a commitment to the long-term success of the organization and will lead to the creation of an effective data strategy, which will be the focus of my next installment in this series. I welcome your feedback, comments and questions below.

Big data vision mission

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