IT systems capture every piece of data imaginable and keep it stored in databases for 1 year, 10 years, or maybe even indefinitely. The data is right at your fingertips… But who needs it? Why do they need it? When do they need it?

When I look at a business’s data needs for any IT project, I think of 3 phases; Data Capture, Data Storage, and Data Use.

Defining needs for Data Capture and Data Storage is fairly straightforward. This is often the top priority for any IT project and there are many standard processes and templates to guide these activities. Data Use, however, is much more complex and is often overlooked.

Investigating Data Use requires a deep understanding of both IT capabilities and business subject matter expertise. It is the coordination of these two sometimes different worlds where the data is transformed from “0’s and 1’s” into actionable business information. This is not a simple phase to investigate, as there are no standard processes or templates that I am aware of, but I would argue that it is the most important phase. Exploring Data Use allows a company or agency to uncover hidden value/opportunities or leverage proven data analytics to take the guesswork out of decision-making to drive optimal, consistent results.

The information that you receive from your data has the potential to transform your business and take it to the next level. When having your next discussion on data, remember to ask, “How is this data going to be used?”