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Data has the ability to empower any department within a company but many view data as a hard to grasp concept. People headed down the data trail often don’t know where to start and view it as a time-consuming process. Those harsh views can be busted up by understanding how to set attainable data goals, knowing how to map your progress to those goals, and by using effective data project management methods. Knowing these steps will help anyone get to quick data wins that collect valuable insights for their companies.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Data Goals

Getting aligned with your goals for data is the most important step in any project. If you don’t know where you want to go then there is no chance of getting there. Understand what each department wants to know from data and what they will do based on that data. To organize efforts we suggest using the S.M.A.R.T Goals system. S.M.A.R.T  is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. Put simply it describes, what we want to learn, what measurable data to use, is it achievable and relevant, and setting timely goals for that project. Each goal then needs a directly responsible individual (DRI) assigned to it because if it’s everyone’s job it’s no one’s job. Finally ending by prioritizing the goals you have set by order of importance.

Data Project Roadmapping

Once S.M.A.R.T. Goals are established, prioritized and assigned a DRI, the next step is to map out the project. Visualizing the process is incredibly helpful for everyone involved and Gantt charts can help everyone know their part. Whiteboards are your friends when drawing up visuals and teams should be included in the brainstorming process. Once everything’s comfortable teams should consider breaking down their processes into 60-day sprints that track their progress toward a goal. With your goals on a roadmap, the next step is to execute. Remember everyone will fail sometimes, however, a resilient project management system allows failures to be known and learned from.

Data Project Management

For your data project to succeed you need to embrace radical transparency. This transparency allows for each team member to be held accountable and creates clear rules for enforcement. Task management software and “stand-up” meetings can help establish that transparency between staff and management. With the goal of getting honest project updates and identifying needs that are holding up progress. As well, team members are bound to leave for greener pastures eventually so it’s necessary to create a system that can withstand the loss of any single member. That way your team isn’t left picking up the pieces after the house of cards falls down.

It can be hard to create excitement around data at any organization, so check out our previous lecture on Creating A Data Culture at your Organization.