The world of data is full of buzzwords and phrases, from the technical data mesh to the more operational data quality. Keeping track of the latest thinking around what makes a data transformation successful is difficult, but data leaders and business leaders alike need to recognise that underpinning all of these things is the concept of data intelligence: what exactly is that, and how does an organisation go about implementing it?

Unlike other data terms, data intelligence isn’t just a technical or operational term. It isn’t one bit of culture or one bit of software, but rather a combination of systems, processes and data literacy that enables an organisation to maximise the value of the data it has. These systems can be specific software solutions such as a data catalog, automated data quality checks or principles such as data culture or data literacy. All of these component parts of data intelligence provide a foundation for having trusted and reliable information that a business can then use to make informed decisions.

Intelligent Businesses Have Data Intelligence

So why are those systems so important for an organisation? Why would a business need data intelligence?

Well, without data intelligence, valuable information often resides in fragmented silos spread across a business, meaning that it can’t be properly exploited. Unless there is a plan to exploit the value of data and improve its quality and trustworthiness, an organisation simply cannot reach the full potential of a data transformation. One of the most common problems an organisation without data intelligence can face is simply not being able to find the data that it needs – data intelligence will empower different data users within a business to locate the right data, trust that information and then properly exploit it.

Who Wants This?

Data intelligence seems like a no-brainer for any modern business, right? The challenge that data professionals face is that many business executives aren’t specifically asking for it; for most businesses, C-Suite execs want to skip straight to the shiny new digital technologies, whether that’s AI, business intelligence or advanced reporting. They often don’t realise, though, that data intelligence is a critical foundational component for all of these digital innovations before they can begin making a meaningful difference to how a business operates.

Look at it this way: nobody buys a drill because they want a drill. Instead, people buy a drill because they want a hole and the drill is the most effective way of achieving that objective. Data intelligence is exactly the same. Business executives aren’t crying out for the cocktail of systems and institutional changes that make up data intelligence, but they do want the business performance improvements that result from being able to make better decisions based upon reliable and trustworthy data.

How Does a Business Implement Data Intelligence?

So, in order to get the most out of their data, C-Suite execs should be looking to data intelligence before they move onto the shiny new things such as machine learning; improving the quality and trustworthiness of data will solve the age-old problem of garbage in, garbage out that plagues new digital innovations. But just how does an organisation go about implementing data intelligence?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet. Rather, there is change management involving people, processes and technology. Part of it is building a data culture, another is to encouraging data literacy, whilst implementing supporting software capabilities.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then, after reading the above, that implementing data intelligence is not something that can be completed in short order. Instead, data intelligence is often implemented best when it is part of a multi-part programme of transformation within a business. In fact, it’s often much more successful when it’s linked to a well-sponsored business transformation as that tends to be a good driver of building a data intelligence foundation.

One effective approach is to begin by implementing a data catalog. Having a data catalog will allow a business to actually work out what data they have, what data is important for their business users, what data can be moved to the cloud and what data needs governing as a priority.

Establishing a baseline understanding of the data being worked with will ultimately enable a better data intelligence transformation; the bottom line is, having a data catalog allows an organisation to know the scale of its data challenge and where it should prioritise its efforts.

Data intelligence is the key to unlocking so many exciting digital innovations by simultaneously feeding trustworthy, high-quality data into an organisation and empowering employees to make the most out of it. Data intelligence is truly the digital foundation you didn’t know your business needed.