In my last blog I introduced the Data Management Maturity Staircase (above). In this blog I shall look at the steps that make up the staircase.

The Steps

The data management maturity staircase has 5 steps, as well as the ‘ground’ or Level ‘0’ position. Each step up represents greater delivery of the data management strategic tasks and meets the data strategy. Different organisations have different reliance on data and decision making.

Data management processes become more mature as you learn, improve and refine the key data management activities being undertaken.

Let us take a closer look at the individual steps (maturity levels) on the staircase:


This organisation has not even begun to understand the quality and/or importance of its data; it does not understand the need to do so. This organisation is living with the current situation and is not aware of the potential benefits that better data management could provide. They see that any problems caused by poor data management is a ‘normal’ business environment.


This organisation has recognised the need to manage data processes but has not yet started delivering improvements in approach. They are more likely to treat data improvements as a series of data cleansing exercises without understanding why data quality degrades over time.  There will often be a ‘blame someone else’ culture in this organisation making it someone else’s problem.


An organisation on this step is beginning to go places. It realises that a coordinated and sustainable approach is required. A strategy is being developed, roles and responsibilities are being defined around the role of data. There is recognition that data impacts key business processes and that better data exploitation can increase efficiency and revenues. The data requirements that drive the decision-making processes are starting to be understood.


This organisation knows what data it needs; understands the quality it has and is actively planning to fill unacceptable gaps. Each employee will know what is expected regarding data management responsibilities and the senior leadership team display supportive behaviours and provide governance. Any data errors will be assessed to understand the resulting inefficiencies and poor decisions. This knowledge will be used to target data quality improvements including the fixing of underlying root causes. There is recognition that more work in this area will bring greater rewards to the organisation: The journey continues. This step on the staircase is a ‘good’ place to be as your organisation already recognises that data management is a key activity, and it can deliver data that will almost certainly offer value to the decision-making processes. All the good work done so far needs to be sustained and refined to be able to climb upwards.


This organisation has already been on a long journey and is using its experience of the journey well. Master data techniques are not only understood but implemented. Data is specified and consistently applied across processes and systems. A ‘right first time’ approach is actively encouraged, and these behaviours are evidently displayed right throughout the organisation.  Assurance activities pick up any failings and trigger improvement regimes appropriately.  Activities, causes, and rectifications are recorded providing a reference point and a catalogue of knowledge. The organisation assesses its performance relating to data and is seeking to integrate different data activities and optimise performance across them.


This organisation knows through measurement and analysis that its data processing is at an optimal level. It will be seen as ‘leading’ in this subject matter. The data flows across the organisation will be understood, optimised and managed to deliver the business outcomes the process was designed to. Effort is not wasted on data error corrections when not necessary e.g., low frequency, low impact errors. The data quality strategy is recognised as being part of the organisations plans and strategies.

Understanding the organisation

For most organisations, particularly larger ones, different areas of the organisation and different processes will be at different maturity levels. Identifying the more (and less) mature areas of your organisation can provide insights into the reasons for different levels of maturity and the interactions between teams and processes. For a data activity, if six of your teams are ‘Developing’ and one is ‘Innocent’ how would you score the maturity of the organisation? Conversely, if six teams are ‘Innocent’ or ‘Aware’ and one team is ‘Competent’ how would you score the maturity of this organisation?

Just like climbing a real staircase, it is a journey. Without a clear strategy you may find that you climb a step or two and then fall back down: after all, stairs are for descending too. You may need help from other organisations, new processes and even new people to keep up the momentum. To successfully make the journey you firstly need to appreciate that data needs to be managed and this does not have to be difficult. Recognising the fact that a journey does indeed need to happen should help you make the move and not get stuck on the ‘Ground floor’.

In the next blog we shall look at delivering the change so that the journey may begin, continue and even progress to the top.  If you want to find out how we can support you on this journey, feel free to get in contact

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