How to Build a Solid Data Culture

How to Build a Solid Data Culture

Rome was not built in a day. Your data culture won’t be either, but every step towards building a solid data culture in your enterprise is worth the time and effort. As noted in the IDC Brief from 2021, “there is an incremental correlation between organizations’ placement within the Data Culture Index and their performance on a set of standard business metrics.” The trend lines were clear – the more holistically invested the business was, the greater the gains in customers’ experience, time to market, productivity, and profit. Businesses made headway when a solid data culture was established.

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In our previous blog, we discussed what a data culture is. But how do you go about creating or improving a data culture?

1. Create the culture at all levels, top to bottom.

The adage “it starts at the top” rings true when it comes to creating any culture in an organization. A culture centered around the use and understanding of data is not different. Leaders, including those at the very top, should set the expectations that data is an important piece of day-to-day operations, and the use of key data isn’t just a quarterly or annual thing. It pervades what we do day in and day out. It is also important to hold certain expectations around the data:

  • Everyone in the organization uses data and understands what it tells them and how to use it effectively.
  • Decisions in the business will have data at the center, driving the strategic planning and measuring metrics across the business, in all areas
  • The data will focus not only on external factors like customer satisfaction, but also on productivity, processes, and profits.
  • All levels of leadership will lead through example

Leaders need to be able to articulate the “why” of data use and how it is vital to a successful organization, and employees at all levels should share this understanding and embrace this concept. You want to move your data stakeholders from just being “aware” of the data to being leaders in the use of the data at every level.

2. Build a common language of data and a deep understanding of what data is and what it shows.

You will often hear or read that there is a language of data. Probability and statistics courses are not just for data scientists. The Harvard Business Review speaks to the need to “fuse domain knowledge and technical know-how”. Users of the data must be able to talk about it intelligently and with a clear understanding of not only what is being measured, but why and how.

Discussions around what they notice in the data and what it makes them wonder are particularly helpful in developing that “test and learn” mindset, meaning that we form hypotheses as we look at the data, test them, and see what we can glean from the outcome.

Employees need a working knowledge that they are using on an ongoing basis, to squelch the “use it or lose it” impact. When making decisions, stakeholders should ground their decision-making in “good data” around the agreed-upon metrics that matter and be able to talk about both the data and the decisions driven by that data in strategic planning sessions. They should be able to explain any insights gleaned from the analytics in clear and concise terms, making the technical knowledge palatable for others. When the expectations are clear around how we use and talk about data with a consistent data language, it will become part of the fabric of the business culture.

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3. Be transparent with ALL your data and organize it with a business-wide approach.

Everyone should have access to the key data. Additionally, the process of accessing any relevant data being utilized should be both straightforward and expeditious. Data governance, or the processes and procedures that make data management work for an organization, is a key part of making sure all parties have what they need when they need it. Additionally, establishing and implementing key practices in place to ensure the privacy and security of sensitive data is critical, especially in industries where specific regulatory guidance is in place.

Ensuring that the data is clean, complete, and accurate fosters trust within the organization and the data conversations. Stakeholders will not use data they don’t trust, and it may result in bad decisions, inaction, or moving in the wrong direction.

4. Measure focused performance indicators with the right tools and instruments.

Getting the right data set in place is critical. A deep analysis of the key indicators of business success will help your business identify what it is you want and NEED to measure. This focus should be on both internal and external measures. While keeping some level of consistency over time in your focus, you also want some degree of flexibility as new data points become available or data points to a necessary shift in focus. Choosing the right data sets to drive decisions can be a make-or-break choice. The consensus around what data matters and what tools are used to share, discuss, and gain relevant insights is key to building your data culture.

There are many great data business intelligence tools and instruments out there, probably as many as there are businesses that use them. Making sure your enterprise selects tools that work for their data choices is an important aspect of making sure data is used and used well. Choosing the right data sets to drive decisions can be a make-or-break choice. The consensus around what data matters and what tools are used to share, discuss, and gain relevant insights is key to building your data culture. Data with powerful visualizations and the ability to drill down and ask questions will be utilized well.

In conclusion, there are many key stages of building your data culture.

Having a foundation and ongoing plan in place is key. However, once that plan is set in motion and the data culture is evolving, it is critical to continue to monitor and refine it. This will bring about better products and services, enhancing your customer’s experience. Improving the data literacy of your entire team will breathe life into the culture and allow for rich and insightful conversations and drive better decisions for improved profitability, workforce productivity, and overall business health.

Your data can help you reach new heights and take you places you haven’t been to yet. What’s your destination?

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