Your Reading List & recommendations

Big Data: What makes a good data strategy?

By Gavin Meggs, Director of Data, Insight and Analytics at O2. 

In the previous blog in this series on Big Data we discussed how early Big Data investments were seen as IT projects. As a result, they adopted a “build it and they will come” approach which didn’t allow for the true value of understanding, insight and decision making that warranted continued investment.

However, as the machine learning branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made analysing large volumes of data a reality, it has become clear that Big Data requires strategic business input to maximise investment returns. Today delivering value from Big Data is principally a business issue, rather than an IT one, and data investments are considered in terms of return on investment and specific business outcomes.

But what makes a good data strategy? Here are four things to consider:

  1. Skills and Responsibilities

An effective strategy involves having the right team on board. There may be a skills shortage when it comes to Data Scientists and other senior data roles, but it’s worth asking the question: Who really needs to manage your Big Data?Data Scientists are good at extracting the value from the data you already have, but you also need someone who understands the business, who starts with the problem that the business needs to solve, and identifies where Big Data can help.

According to siliconrepublic, the demand for data scientists coupled with the evident skills gap has implications for the global economy as well as the tech industry. But we are starting to witness points of differentiation. A transparent and ethical approach to data responsibility and compliance, for example, can be a draw for experienced data people, as can an organisation that takes its security seriously.

Big Data is no longer just an IT issue. Data is the lifeblood of the business, and Big Data investments require both IT and business stakeholders. An effective data strategy demands clear lines of responsibility for data, something that has not always been in evidence, but businesses must be prepared to mix teams up with both technical and business people.

  1. Governance

Governance is about providing a support network for data ownership and curation throughout the business. Too often organisations look for a one size fits all governance framework that they can adopt, and the reality is that it doesn’t really exist. Your governance framework evolves over time, and should be under constant review.

“In the last ten years I have not come across an organisation who has nailed the governance framework they have gone with, or that hasn’t wanted to make significant changes to it.”

(Tom Pringle, IDC)

  1. Compliance

No data strategy would be complete, or ethical, without due consideration to the changing regulation and compliance frameworks. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented from 25 May 2018 not only introduces a number of significant changes that will impact how data is stored, managed and secured, but also how consent for its use must be maintained, and the timelines for informing relevant parties when data breaches occur. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides significant detail related to GDPR as part of the data protection regime in the UK, together with the new Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018).

Before GDPR, the ICO had a maximum penalty of £500,000 that it could levy against firms for security failings. GDPR, however, moves to a two-tier structure. The cap for the lower tier of fine is 2 percent of global turnover, or €10 million (whichever is greater). Whereas the most serious violations can result in fines of up to 4 percent of global turnover or €20 million (whichever is greater). To put this into perspective, the fines from the ICO against UK companies would have risen from £880,500 to £69 million had GDPR had been in force at the time, according to NCC Group.

Although GDPR may legitimately cause concern due to the fines involved for non-compliance, it is important to consider it as an opportunity to support the need for a more effective data strategy that is fit for purpose. It is a chance to think again about the business challenges you face, cleanse the data you already have and agree the legal basis for the data you actually need to collect.

  1. Partnerships

A key question any organisation should ask themselves as they embark on their Big Data journey is why collect data to analyse yourself, when a strategic partnership may deliver the same, or better insights more quickly, cost-effectively and, possibly, with reduced compliance and security risk?

At O2, for example, we have invested heavily in Smart Steps, technology that overlays market data with anonymised and aggregated data from the O2 mobile network to spot customer trends and habits. For our retail partners, it can be used to help analyse customer loyalty, the identification of best locations for bricks and mortar presence, the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and so on. For our transport partners, it can help to realise the impact of new building projects and, for public services, it can identify where new programmes or social projects will deliver the greatest benefits to citizens.

Insights into customer behaviour gleaned from Smart Steps and O2 Wifi Insights have helped us to design our own customer’s experience whenever they step inside an O2 store or visit us online. You can find out more about mobile data insights here.

O2’s mobile messaging and advertising platform, Weve, also provides smart access to more than 23 million verified people. This ensures personalised and focused mobile marketing campaigns when and where they are relevant, such as the Fiat campaign that messaged opted-in users to invite them to a virtual test-drive when they were within a half mile radius of three billboards.

A good data strategy helps maximise the value from the data you collect yourselves and the trusted partners that enrich your own data assets. At O2 we’ve designed products to help to support your business decisions today, from GCHQ certified mobile, fixed and wifi networks with O2 Gateway, to cloud solutions. And with our Weve and Mobile Data Insight products we provide additional insight that anonymises and aggregates information from network activity every day. Get in touch to talk to us in more detail about how we can help your business.

All articles


Public sector

Safe & secure


Tech advice

Work smarter