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May 24, 2024
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 min read

Unlocking SME Data Maturity: The 3 Pillars of Environmental Factors

Unlocking SME Data Maturity: The 3 Pillars of Environmental Factors
Fig 1. Environmental Factors and Their Significance in Data Maturity

Data maturity is like leveling up in a video game but for your organization’s data. Imagine starting at level 1, where you're just collecting and storing data, much like gathering basic tools and resources. As you progress, you unlock new abilities: centralizing your data, standardizing processes, and eventually mastering advanced analytics and predictive modeling. Each level brings more power and insights, helping you make smarter decisions, streamline operations, and innovate faster. When you reach the highest levels, data becomes your ultimate weapon, giving you a competitive edge and transforming your organization into a data-driven powerhouse.

We have been working on maturing our data maturity model to provide achievable data goals for SMEs in different industries, such as professional services, technology companies, and e-commerce businesses.

From basic maturity to innovation stages, we recommend following an 8-stage roadmap under 2 main categories:

  • Phase I: Building Blocks
  • Phase II: Strategic Leverage

While most data maturity models target large enterprises and focus on Phase II components, at Vizio AI, we believe that SMEs enjoy the benefits of data maturity. Therefore, our main focus is on the Building Block items, which comprise 4 stages:

  • Stage 1: Basic
  • Stage 2: Collection
  • Stage 3: Centralization
  • Stage 4: Standardization
Fig 2. The First Phase of Data Maturity: Building Blocks (Source: the author)

While Phase II is the phase in which the organizations skyrocket their capabilities, we will save it for another blog post. But here is a sneak peek into it:

Fig 3. The Second Phase of Data Maturity: Strategic Leverage (Source: the author)

An organization that has achieved these four stages already enjoys numerous benefits, such as centralized KPI tracking, standardized data collection practices, entry-level predictive analytics capabilities, and medium-level team awareness regarding data maturity. These intermediary benefits can easily be translated into (i) increased revenue, (ii) optimized operations, and/or (iii) reduced costs.

However, completing these stages can only be achieved with effective coordination of the following environmental factors: 

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Technology


The need for human-oriented tasks is rapidly disappearing in the age of AI. However, we must still rely on humans and their full cooperation to achieve data maturity. In addition, in a rapidly changing world where most of the infrastructure is not designed with an AI-first approach, the flexibility and adaptability of people are key to successful transformation. On the people side, two sub-components need to be set and communicated relentlessly:

  • Organization and Culture, including values, beliefs, expectations, and critical success factors (CSFs)
  • Roles and Responsibilities at the individual, departmental, or organizational level.

Case Study: The People Pillar in E-commerce

Imagine a small e-commerce business aiming to achieve data maturity. The company's leadership creates a data-driven culture by embedding data-related goals into its core values and regularly communicating the importance of data in decision-making. It also defines clear roles and responsibilities for data collection, analysis, and reporting. This approach ensures that everyone in the organization understands their part in the data maturity journey, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.


Clear process definitions to be followed by the people is another major component in building a data-oriented organization. In an organization, while some processes are designed to be executed by the people, some processes are automated by internal or third-party SaaS applications. In addition to these local process designs, the management team must coordinate the relationship and association among these local process flows. Two main sub-categories require attention to create effective process flows:

  • Activities that are integral to a firm’s operations
  • Practices & Techniques that are accepted as best practices or standardized approaches

Case Study: The Process Pillar for Professional Services

Consider a professional services firm looking to improve its data processes. They start by documenting all data-related activities, such as client data collection, project tracking, and performance measurement. The firm adopts best practices like regular data audits and automated data validation checks to ensure accuracy and consistency. By integrating these practices into their daily operations, they streamline data handling and enhance the reliability of their insights.


While we often warn organizations about adopting a new SaaS tool by overlooking important disadvantages, correctly adopting tools is extremely important to create a data-oriented organization. Technology can help organizations collect, centralize, and standardize their processes and people roles, corresponding to more efficiency. It can also reduce the time-spent considerably if the people are properly trained and processes are clearly and correctly defined. We can talk about two sub-components of the technology factor:

  • Tools, various MISs, standards & protocols
  • Deliverables, including inputs & outputs, information, databases, and other resources

Case Study: The Technology Pillar for Startups

A technology startup wants to centralize its data to improve decision-making. They invest in a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates with their marketing and sales tools. The startup can easily track interactions and measure campaign effectiveness by centralizing customer data. The team receives thorough CRM training, ensuring they can leverage its full capabilities. As a result, the startup sees improved customer insights, more efficient marketing efforts, and better-aligned sales strategies.

How These Environmental Factors Support Each Other

When an organization can follow a roadmap that addresses these main environmental factors, its goals of becoming data-oriented and achieving data maturity have a much bigger chance of being realized. If an organization pays unbalanced attention to tool adoption or process definitions without team adoption or continuously trains its people without empowering them to adopt new processes or technologies, the chances of failure increase.

I believe examples could be more powerful than theoretical explanations. So, here are two examples that can be helpful:

Case Study: Importance of the People in Highly Evolving Environments

Imagine an organization is trying to improve its processes by following industry best practices. However, the recent advancements in the field of AI made most of the best practices obsolete. The tools also failed to catch up due to the extremely fast evolution of the field. A well-trained team with a clear understanding of vision, mission, and core values can be integral to an organization’s adaptation and survival in this ever-changing ecosystem.

Case Study: A Mid-size Manufacturing Company

Consider a mid-sized manufacturing company adopting new AI-driven analytics tools to optimize production processes. They ensure their employees are not only trained on the new tools but also understand the broader business goals behind the adoption. Simultaneously, they update their process workflows to integrate these tools seamlessly. This holistic approach enables the company to quickly adapt to technological changes, maintain operational efficiency, and stay competitive.


In conclusion, achieving data maturity in SMEs is like unlocking a treasure trove of opportunities. A balanced and coordinated approach that seamlessly integrates people, processes, and technology is the key. By laying a robust foundation in the initial stages and skillfully orchestrating these critical factors, organizations can unlock the door to increased revenue, optimized operations, and reduced costs. Embrace the journey to data maturity, and watch your business thrive in the fast-paced, ever-evolving digital world.

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