INSIDE-BUSINESS---a-checklist-for-leaders (1)

Data has become an essential element of both business strategy and business operations. 

This is why responsibility for data is moving up the company structure; whilst appointing a Chief Data Officer is a good start, as a leader you should be considering your company’s data skills, data handling and data infrastructure as part of your responsibilities.

This checklist is designed to provide a starting point to anyone who wants to provide leadership in their business when it comes to data. The goal is to help you bring balance and alignment to how data is being used across your organisation.

  • Balance is about ensuring that data creates strategic value, whilst avoiding harmful impacts.
  • Alignment is about ensuring that you are making effective investments in the people, infrastructure and ecosystem you need to deliver strategic value from data. 

The checklist suggests five critical areas leaders can explore through a series of questions. We also suggest tools you can use to take practical action.

  1. Data strategy: How data is used differently in your organisation to create value and improve business performance, in the face of competition.
  2. Data infrastructure:  The datasets, policies, systems, processes and tools you need for data to create value.
  3. Data ecosystems: The internal and external networks that enable data to be accessed, used and shared.
  4. Data skills: The literacy and skills your people need to improve business performance.
  5. Data ethics:  How your business creates value from data whilst avoiding harmful impacts.

The checklist

Data strategy

Understand how your business should use data differently to create value and improve business performance, in the face of competition. 

Explore these questions:

  • Where is your data strategy documented?
  • Who owns the development of data strategy in your business?
  • How does your data strategy support your business strategy?
  • What’s different about your data strategy compared to competitors?
  • What specific plans have been created?
  • What plans have been created to treat data as an asset?
  • What short-, mid- and long-term goals and KPIs are documented in your data strategy?
  • What are the primary use cases for data in your business?
  • What business models in your business rely on data?
  • Who ensures that strategic plans for data are adequately resourced?
  • How is progress monitored and reported?
  • When are your data strategy and associated plans reviewed and iterated?
  • What’s missing?


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Data infrastructure

Identify the data assets, standards, technologies, policies and the people that steward and contribute to them.

Explore these questions:

  • For your business and data strategy what insights and datasets are required to make decisions and monitor progress? 
  • What data assets does your business need to deliver and support the products, services required by your data and business strategies? What standards govern them?
  • What systems and tools are critical to your business strategy? Are they fit for purpose? Are they adequately resourced?
  • What policies and processes govern how data should be used in your business to support strategy? Who is responsible for shaping policy and how are decisions made about changes? 
  • How might current policies and processes need to change to improve progress towards your strategic goals?
  • Where do critical datasets sit on a spectrum from open, shared to closed? Where should they sit?


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Data ecosystems and data flows

Identify and plan the technical and organisational relationships needed to deliver a service.

Explore these questions:

  • How does data flow across your business and network currently?
  • Who are the different actors in your data ecosystem?
  • How do you need to collaborate with the different actors?
  • What new sources of data do you need to improve internal operations and business performance?
  • How could you better exploit existing data flows?
  • What changes are needed, and what effects might they have?


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Data skills

Analyse the literacy and skills your people need to execute strategic plans and improve business performance.

Explore these questions:

  • What are your strategic needs when it comes to data skills?
  • Where are your current strengths when it comes to data skills?
  • What domains do your current data skills development approach focus on?
  • Where are the gaps between the skills you need and the skills you already have or are developing.
  • What could you improve?


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Data ethics

Data ethics relates to good practice around how data is collected, used and shared. It is especially relevant when data activities have the potential to impact people and society, directly or indirectly.

Start by exploring these questions:

  • What are your data sources and what are their limitations?
  • When it comes to data which existing ethical codes apply to your sector or project? 
  • What legislation, policies, or other regulation shape how you use data? 
  • Where is data obtained from? What rights do you have to use data?
  • What are the reasons for using data?
  • What are the positive effects on people?
  • What are the negative effects? How can they be avoided or minimised?
  • How can you engage with people? How open can you be about your work with data
  • How is data ethics being routinely implemented across your business and projects?
  • How is data ethics monitored and reviewed?


  • The Data Ethics Canvas helps you to identify potential ethical issues associated with a data project or activity. Use this to ensure that ethical – and legal – use of data is considered from the very beginning of your project, and throughout. It can feed into your business case for using data, or be used on its own.
  • Data 2020: Data ethics and responsible technology

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