What makes a good Data Strategy?

What is a Data Strategy?

Data strategy is a document which reinforces and advances the firm’s overall business strategy. It should refer to the processes, technologies, people, and data you use to operate and improve your firm.

A data strategy should include attention to organisational roles by documenting who does what with the data to facilitate collaboration and avoid duplication. Not everyone in an organisation uses data the same way, and their roles in data collection, management, and analytics will vary.

Data identification, ingestion, storage, and analysis are parts of data architecture. Documenting and implementing your data architecture is essential for a consistent, predictable data strategy. It also makes it easier to scale your data operations as your needs change.

From a foundation of data governance which has established the processes and responsibilities to ensure the quality and security of the data used across the firm, data management encourages all team members to think of data as a business asset rather than a by-product of business operations.

Another critical component of data management is improving data literacy. Helping everyone find, understand, and use data that can help them be more effective in their roles. 

Why do law firms need a Data Strategy?

Data is becoming the key to competitive advantage, meaning a firm’s ability to compete will increasingly be driven by how well it can leverage data, apply analytics, and implement new technologies.

Without a coherent data strategy that supports the firm’s strategy, your firm does not have identifiable data objectives which help you manage data as an asset.

This means that your firm doesn’t have the focus needed to achieve data goals or develop data plans that will move the firm’s use and management of data forward.

A lack of data objectives means that your firm does not have a clear vision of how data can support the firm’s objectives and be a competitive advantage.

What are the most common Data Strategy mistakes?

When law firms are creating a data strategy which covers the whole firm, there are several common mistakes that I see firms make.  

These mistakes mean that, in many cases, these data strategies are perceived as irrelevant or unachievable. This can lead most stakeholders to disengage with the transformational effort needed for a data strategy to benefit the firm.  

Common mistakes are: 

  • Not having a direct connection between the data strategy and the firm’s overall business strategy makes it hard for people to see why a data strategy is essential.  
  • Focusing on client data or what data can do for clients while ignoring internal operational data and improved data management will not achieve the highest quality data possible.   
  • Not involving enough people in the conversation; Everyone in the firm has a different approach and view of how good, bad, or helpful the firm’s data is and how good and valuable the firm’s data could be.  
  • Asking what other law firms are doing and then trying to shape your approach to match theirs. Other law firms do not capture, store, use and maintain data in the same way you do, so why would their data strategy work for you? 
  • Focusing on only data and technology. A good data strategy includes data, technology, people, and processes. 

How does Iron Carrot define a Data Strategy?

Because the Iron Carrot approach to data and data governance is bottom-up, not top-down, we see a data strategy as:

“An agreed way of managing a law firm’s finite resources to change and improve how the firm manages and uses data.”

The strategy document serves two purposes and needs to include enough information to meet both needs.

Consistent Implementation across the firm

A holistic, cross-functional articulation of the vision, benefits, goals, objectives, initiatives, risks, and success enablers which explains what everyone is trying to achieve and how it all fits together.

Engagement and Support of Data Experts

A high-level roadmap, with priorities against a timeline, including KPIs and metrics, helps Data Owners and Data Stewards understand who will ask them to do what, when, and why.

Key characteristics of a good Data Strategy

All the data strategies which do the job they are supposed to do and help the firm do better or more with data have five common characteristics.

  1. The data strategy aligns with existing firm business goals and objectives
  2. It is actionable, measurable, and relevant
  3. It identifies key support, resources, and constraints
  4. Is a living document, regularly reviewed to realign it to firm and client needs
  5. The data strategy adds value to the firm

What are the sections to include in your Data Strategy?

A good data strategy articulates the needs of technology and business users so that they mutually understand each’s needs and drivers.

There are broadly four sections to include in your data strategy, but each section must cover four organisational dimensions.

Business Needs

This is where you explain the business requirements and strategic goals for leveraging the firm’s data as an asset. You’ll directly reference the firm’s mission or vision and explain how the firm’s overall business strategy, objectives, organisational structures, and performance measures require something new, different, or better from the firm’s data.

Current State

A section which sets out your existing capabilities across business processes, data management practices (including data governance), including an assessment of your data and technology assets. If you’re serious about data change, remember that data governance is a capability for changing data management processes and behaviours around the firm’s data, so if you don’t have it already, it will be a key part of your strategic priorities.

Strategic Data Priorities

This is where you start to articulate your data strategy vision. It might include things like:

  • the questions being asked by lawyers, business services, and clients that can be answered with data
  • technology infrastructure requirements (for example, building a flexible and scalable data warehouse)
  • aspirations for a business intelligence or data science capability to turn data into insights and visual story-telling
  • the people and skillsets that need to be trained or hired to support data
  • the processes and organisational structures that the firm needs and how these things will be supported

A Road Map

Once you’ve set out where you are (your current state) and where you want to get to (strategic data priorities), you’ll need to focus on creating the road map of steps to help you execute your plans.

This roadmap will include leadership and planning, project development and execution, and an assessment of cultural readiness for change.

It will also draw clear lines between the roadmap and the business value of the strategy to meet business needs and between the roadmap and the current state by explaining the new capabilities that need to be created.

Summing up and Next Steps

A law firm data strategy is an agreed way of managing a law firm’s finite resources to change and improve how the firm manages and uses data. It needs to include enough information about the current and future states of data to ensure consistent implementation across the firm and the engagement and support of the firm’s data experts. All law firm strategies need to include a roadmap which has prioritised steps to achieve the firm’s strategic data priorities.

Start your data journey now…

It can be hard to know where to start with a data strategy or in evaluating the current state of your data management and data governance capabilities. If you want to chat confidentially about how your firm can create or iterate its data strategy, you can use our book a call page to contact us.