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Data-Driven Culture

Companies across industry sectors continue to collect, store and analyze unprecedented volumes of data, hoping to glean meaningful insights that can help drive competitive advantage. But even as companies launch new big data projects, many still have lingering questions about how to use them to drive optimum business value.

While most businesses agree that the effective use of data is instrumental to their success, many still struggle in their effort to create a data-driven organization. A recent survey of technology and business executives representing many of today's largest corporations revealed some alarming stats on the depth and scope of this cultural challenge.

To achieve a cultural change, organizations need to first start seeing data for what it truly is―a valuable asset that needs to be guarded, properly handled and readily accessible. We need to infuse data into the decision making process across the enterprise. The goal is to bring the benefits of big data insights to business users as seamlessly and transparently as possible, without disrupting their day-to-day activities (and without the rigid confines of complicated IT tools).

Making data readily accessible is only one part of the equation. Human bias is another challenging element, as people are inclined to see only what they want to see. Like the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, people tend to create their own versions of reality and truth from their own limited experience and perspectives.

Blind Man and The Elephant

Disparities in analytical findings are a common occurrence in many organizations, which opens the door to unintended biases that must be resolved through adept use of statistical techniques. To avoid the potential for bias, data analysis and conclusions should be free of opinions, leaving all decision making centered squarely on a fact-based foundation. Using data in its purest form will help produce more exact, more targeted and therefore, more effective results.

The conventional mode of approach to analytics a multitude of disparate databases, with access limited to select users has revealed to be hugely ineffective. Businesses need to operate from a single version of the truth, understanding which are the numbers they should be focusing on among the volumes of data they have on-hand. It is not uncommon to see high-level managers arguing with competing versions of the truth, which can prove to be a risky practice.

One of the most effective techniques for creating data-driven culture is finding ways to empower your business users. Following are a few recommendations:

  • Hire a chief data officer: This person will need analytics expertise along with a keen understanding of data science and algorithmic approaches.
  • Engage your leaders: Keep your data leaders involved in strategic discussions as they are perfectly positioned to deliver value by finding new ways to use analytics to improve business intelligence efforts.
  • Provide the right tools: Data teams need to be empowered to acquire the tools they need and should not be limited to the tools the IT department might choose.
  • Optimize in-house expertise: Be sure to leverage the combined experience of your team, which can help you gain an important advantage in your particular industry or business niche.
  • Give your team a voice: Let the data team think for themselves and ask questions; don’t impose on them your definition or one version of the truth.
  • Accelerate insights: Speed is a competitive weapon. Business intelligence tools must capture a substantial amount of data in near real time without diminishing the operation of current processes and jobs. Queries must return in seconds rather than minutes or hours, and reports must update dynamically.
  • Keep the focus on analysis: Reporting is not where the action is. Rather, analytics is the domain where people are exploring data, investigating the business and uncovering connections and insights that will drive the organization forward. Analysts should be spending only a fraction of the day doing reporting and the rest of it doing analysis.
Reporting VS. Analysis

To succeed in the digital age, organizations need to accelerate innovation, which requires an environment that celebrates and encourages originality. Some businesses attempt to curb failure or risk-taking, but taking risks is the prerequisite to innovation. Organizations that foster creativity, set aggressive goals and aren't intimidated by failure are better prepared to thrive in the midst of business or market uncertainty.

Assess what cultural changes your organization may need to become more data-driven. It often requires an impartial and open review of processes, people, and technologies across the enterprise. Be ready to challenge long-held beliefs and customary patterns. Organizational change must be driven from the top―from your business leaders.

  • Implementing the right technologies and hiring the best talent can help, but people and tools will not necessarily assure the transformation of a culture resistant to change.
  • Defining a new strategy and creating new and detailed indicators (KPI) can help measure success, but it won't necessarily drive people to trust such metrics.
  • Training employees can help lessen the data knowledge gap, but it won't necessarily oblige them to apply or use what they have learned.

While these efforts can contribute, it is the commitment and involvement of the leadership and their desire for a data-driven environment is the most influential factor in cultural transformation.

Our experts at Kin + Carta are taking a deep dive into today's data challenges and highlighting many of the new capabilities available in next-generation business intelligence tools and systems. These newfound insights will be soon published in a Whitepaper on our website.