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Full toolkit: 3) Set aspirational level

Before completing the capability assessment it is important to consider the aspirational level.

We set our aspirational level to understand our ‘to-be’ state. This should be ambitious but realistic. It provides the focus and priority to begin the journey from your current state of data capability towards a higher level.


  • No data standards
  • No data strategy


  • Roles not defined
  • Datasets not reconciled


  • Some change capacity
  • Some business ownership


  • Data has value
  • Roles defined


  • Data strategy key to business success
  • Analytics trusted and relevant

An aspirational level can be envisaged to either achieve benefits or reduce risk. Some benefits of increased data maturity are:

  1. Reducing the burden
    • Collection
    • Automation
    • Reuse
    • Linking
  2. Increased accessibility
    • Landscape
    • Standards
    • Re-use
    • Open data
  3. Increased quality
    • Alignment
    • Metrics
    • Models
  4. Student experience
    • Constant
    • Secure
    • Personalised
    • Coherent

We use the Data Capability Assessment: Aspiration (link opens in Excel) to identify an aspirational maturity level. You should answer the questions with the answers you would like to be able to select in the future. Once your aspirational level has been determined you can choose the benefits to be realised from your aspirational level using the benefit query tool. You can also select the risks from different levels that you can relate to using the risk query tool.

You should then cross-reference these benefits and risks with your organisational objectives and issues identified in the previous sections. If you are completing the small toolkit it is not necessary to complete the cross reference exercise; in the actions below this is identified with a purple highlight.

Worked examples:

Benefit summary ID Level Dimension Theme Owner Objective cross reference Issue cross reference
Our collection costs are efficient, minimised and appropriate  1 3-Proactive Business Process Reducing the burden Chief operating officer  4, 5 1, 5, 7, 8
The quality, accuracy and timeliness of our data outputs provides significant decision support for operational and strategic questions.  2 3-Proactive Business Process Increasing accessibility Head of institution 1, 3 1, 4, 9
Our data management capability visibly adds value to our services and products, and forms the basis for new ones.  3 3-Proactive People and Culture Improving quality Chief operating officer  2 2, 3, 7, 8
Roles and responsibilities for data ownership are well understood, and there is accountability for decisions and actions.  4 3-Proactive Data Activities Reducing the burden Operational/data leader 1, 2 5, 8, 9
Our data capability and understanding of the value of our data asset has led us to create sophisticated analytical models.  5 3-Proactive Technology Student experience Data and information analysis   1, 2, 3 4, 6, 10
Risk summary ID Level Dimension Theme Owner Objective cross reference Issue cross reference
Financial loss due to data related issues and/or poor data management processes. 6 2-Stable Business Process Improving quality Chief financial officer  5 2, 4, 8
Potential Regulatory breach - known and unknown. 7 2-Stable People and Culture Improving quality Head of institution   1, 5, 8
Exposing researchers, or their organisations to civil actions due to data inaccuracies. 8 2-Stable People and Culture Increasing accessibility Chief operating officer  4 5, 9
Poor decision making linked directly to poor data quality. 9 3-Proactive Data Activities Increasing accessibility Operational/data leader 1 4, 7
Huge and unknown Business Continuity Risk for data asset. 10 2-Stable Technology Reducing the burden Chief technology/systems officer    1, 4, 10



  1. Take the Data Capability Assessment: Aspiration to fix your to-be state and review the outputs
  2. Review the characteristics with the highest scores (people, process, data or technology)
  3. Use the characteristics query tool to see how this level feels
  4. Open the Data Capability Templates spreadsheet and navigate to the setting the aspirational level tab
  5. Use the benefit query tool to identify the benefits that match your objectives and capability gaps
  6. Use the risk query tool to identify the risks to mitigate that match your objectives and/or risk management framework
  7. Record the risks and benefits in the space provided in the spreadsheet.
  8. Cross reference with objectives and issues to show the hard link between realising those benefits and resolving issues/creating opportunities.
  9. Consider and record who may be your senior sponsor to own these benefits.

If setting an aspirational level is difficult at this point it is recommend to revisit this section after the assessment process. To complete an improvement plan it is necessary to set a level before starting the gap analysis.