The 4 big steps to become data-driven


Readers of this blog are no strangers to me discussing the importance of becoming a data-driven organisation or the steps required to become one. However, a Forbes article really brings this all home by discussing the big four aspects which this could entail.

It all starts with a data culture. This is the collective behaviour and beliefs of people in how they use – or do not use – data for decision-making.

“To make sense of data culture, we need to understand how it fits into the overall corporate culture.”

Given the opportunity to turn information into a competitive advantage, businesses are no longer content being just data aware. Instead, they aspire to become data leading. But bringing about this change at a cultural level is difficult and time-consuming. After all, data is not just something that is purely technical but a component that is integral to the success of any modern organisation.

The four big elements highlight in the Forbes article encompass the following:

#1 Executive leadership owns and drives the use of data

I have seen so many organisations where the data stewards and data-lovers try and push the data culture and data governance agenda from the bottom up. But until someone at the board level grasps it and runs with it, those are almost guerrilla-like efforts in the trenches. While good, they are simply not as effective as spreading the message from the top. The article highlights a key point – the executive does not merely sponsor the data initiatives, but they take ownership of it.

#2 Data champions break silos between teams and promote collaboration

While we do talk about data champions informally, I have yet to come across a business that uses the term. But besides that, the point is that these data stewards are crucial to spread the message and do it well. Unfortunately, most of these data stewards have ‘day jobs’ like being a product owner, line manager, and so on. If they are to gain impetus to grow the data message, the business must make those aspects of their job formal with resources allocated to do so.

#3 Data is trusted, easily accessible, and freely shared

This is one of those points where we can write books on. At a fundamental level, data trust is built up by reporting and then managing data quality issues. I can also throw in my old hobbyhorse in here too – data that is properly catalogued is generally easier to find, access, and share.

#4 Data literacy is considered a critical skill for every role

This is of course a key point which I elaborated on recently. Writing the use of data into a job description and allocating appropriate KPIs is key to getting this done. The Forbes article highlights a key point:

“Data literacy is not relegated to just data and analytics teams. With a common language for data, people across business and technology teams can freely exchange ideas in a manner that is enabling rather than inhibiting.”

We need more businesspeople to understand the data points that are used to manage their part of the business and appreciate and contribute to the value it offers.

To summarise

The Forbes article concludes with the following:

“Often, organisations get intimidated by the magnitude of change needed and the subtle behavioural aspects that must shift. The key thing is to start small, secure easy wins, and continue building momentum over time.” Overall, this is a great article to introduce the topic to the executive. So, if you are unsure of how to approach transforming your company into a data-driven one, pass it around.

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