By Rasmus Wegener

Let’s face it: We are awash in data. Your company may produce and store so much digital information that you no longer know what to do with it all. Indeed, more than half of the 325 global companies Bain & Company surveyed admit they don’t have the ability to derive meaningful business insights from their data.

And that’s a problem, because a company that makes good use of its data is twice as likely to outperform the competition.

Another common problem? The people who would know what to do with that data are often not the ones in charge of it. Most IT departments tend to be less concerned with the “I” in their name—the information itself—than with the technology used to store, protect and manage it. And while IT departments can be reluctant to dole out access to this prized possession—or hamstrung by outdated, restrictive policies—it’s the executives with a deep understanding of the business who can put that data into useful context.

Don’t get us wrong: Using the right technology and keeping data secure have never been more important. But these do not, by themselves, add any value to a company. To turn your data into dollars, you have to get it into the right hands. My colleagues Steve Berez, Paul Callahan and I explored this common issue in a brief last year.

Most business executives today understand the importance of analytics management, and are eager to demonstrate their commitment with big investments in data technology and third-party solutions—sometimes into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. An incredible 85% of the companies we spoke to in another survey recognized that they need to make substantial investments in their data platforms.

But without the right approach, you risk throwing good money after bad. Third-party data services offer seductively simple solutions, but most established companies would do better to harness the power of their data from within and avoid getting locked into an inflexible, proprietary platform.

Here are three sensible strategies to improve your organization’s data capabilities.

Let business decisions guide your technology investments. It’s no stretch to say that data will become more important in the coming years. Therefore, let your long-term business priorities guide your decision making—not short-term industry fads. Look for the areas where enhanced data capabilities would help grow your business, not someone else’s, in important ways, and invest accordingly.

Replace light bulbs with the lights still on. Some IT investments may be absolutely necessary to solve underlying problems and improve long-term productivity—for example, consolidating a hodgepodge of customer data systems—but may not be tied to an urgent business need. It can be difficult to fund such initiatives when so much of the corporate budget is devoted to simply “keeping the lights on,” but finding a way to advance these key improvements while keeping legacy systems running will pay off.

Embrace your Agile side. Traditional data management processes may have served you well, but they’re no match for a world that places real-time demands on analytics and applications. A collaborative DataOps approach as well as Agile development methods—whereby teams build and release applications incrementally, with frequent testing and input from the business—can help your company keep pace.

Learn more about how leading companies are remaking their IT departments in our brief, “Building IT Capabilities to Deliver Better Insights.”

Rasmus Wegener is an Atlanta-based partner in Bain & Company’s Advanced Analytics practice.