August 17, 2021

Actionable vs. Out-of-the-Box Data Strategy: What’s the Difference?

By Cory Koster

If you’re considering designing and building a data platform, you’ll inevitably be faced with a list of important questions that need answering. Once your questions are answered, decisions will need to be made, especially around technology, architecture, training, and potential process changes.

It’s important to have a plan when answering those questions and making those decisions so that you can ultimately build a best-in-class data platform that consistently delivers value. This is where a data strategy becomes critical to the success of the project. A well-defined data strategy can be the difference between a set of theoretical talking points with limited value and the concrete action items defining, outlining, and showcasing success.

In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the key differences between the two main types of data strategy: Actionable and Out-of-the-Box.

If you’re interested in more detail on what exactly is a data strategy, or if you need a refresher, we highly recommend you investigate our guide on How to Build an Actionable Data Strategy

Before we can compare these two data strategies, we need to understand what they are. 

What is an Actionable Data Strategy?

An actionable data strategy will involve multiple components. We like to think of an actionable data strategy as a jigsaw puzzle. The components of the strategy are like the individual pieces, coming together in some way to form the complete picture or the Recommendation. Listed below are a few common components of a data strategy: 

The most important aspect of an actionable data strategy is that it is unique to your business needs. To use the puzzle analogy, each puzzle is different with varying difficulties, sizes, and shapes. Each data strategy engagement will require different approaches to the respective solutions.

A 6-piece puzzle graphic illustrating the different pieces of a data strategy

In the same way, every company faces a different set of challenges, use cases, and requirements, there isn’t a generic strategy or solution that can be applied to every situation. This leads us to the out-of-the-box data strategy.

What is an Out-of-the-Box Data Strategy?

An out-of-the-box data strategy can also be thought of as a one-size-fits-all strategy. This means that a strategy that worked for one company would work for every other company and one could cut and paste the solution without investing any time and effort. This simply isn’t the case.

Remember, each company has a distinct set of challenges, use cases, and requirements. A solution may have worked in one scenario, but this doesn’t mean it will apply in another. This would be like taking the jigsaw pieces from one puzzle and trying to fit them into a completely different puzzle. There might be pieces that happen to work, but generally, it results in a jumble of pieces that don’t belong.

The bottom line is there is no such thing as an out-of-the-box data strategy or a one-size-fits-all strategy. Because strategies are designed for the specific needs of a company, those solved by one solution will not help with solving a different set of needs.

Set your project up for success by investing in and creating an actionable data strategy and don’t rely on finding a generic out-of-the-box strategy. An actionable data strategy will provide concrete action items that define what success looks like and how to achieve it. It will ensure the project provides value more quickly and garners higher levels of confidence as it moves forward.

Don’t rely on gimmicky, out-of-the-box strategies. Let our data strategy experts help your business build an actionable data strategy that brings value and unlocks notable insights.

Frequently Asked Data Strategy Questions

It may not be required in all circumstances, but it should be considered for any project. A data strategy is a way to ensure the needs are met, such as addressing use cases, data governance requirements, and creating an iterative implementation plan. Without a data strategy, some assumptions may be made during planning with no clear objectives or success criteria defined, and the potential for technology and architecture to devolve into disorganization without a clear use case.

Good question! An actionable data strategy is an investment. The process can be broken into smaller parts and handled in a more manageable way. Additionally, phData has combined decades of experience in data strategy. Contact us to speak with an expert to learn more and get you started on the path to an actionable data strategy.

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