Changing the way your business thinks about data

·5-min read
 Data traveling inside a tunnel
Data traveling inside a tunnel

Progress and success in the digital economy is increasingly defined by how well a business puts its data into action. As companies grow and try to make sense of large amounts of data, generated from hundreds of different sources, however, they face internal obstacles that can stall productivity and innovation without intervention. Siloed departments, complex cloud environments and the variety of data sources and types make it more difficult to find a single source of truth. Nearly 40 per cent of data professionals in our recent survey, for example, admitted they don’t fully understand how data is being used in their organizations. What’s more, 44 per cent find it challenging to deal with the diversity of types of data they work with. With all these moving parts considered, it’s becoming a more challenging task to make data available in a format that’s useful for analytics.

Many businesses might have the right tools to extract, transform and load their data already, but that process must be supported with a strong foundation in the form of an internal data culture, for it to be truly effective. Communication and principles, relating to the management of data and metadata, embedded within an organization, play a crucial part in determining how effectively employees in an organization understand and use data in their roles. Ultimately it all comes down to making data more usable – even for non-technical team members – and requires different lines of business, beyond the traditional data team, to buy into a modern data architecture; one that uses the latest technologies and approaches to empower business users to do more with their data.

There are three considerations leaders can take to nurture a strong data culture: create a common language across teams to overcome barriers, establish how data impacts the business’ bottom line, and showcase the value that various business units beyond IT are bringing to end users using data.

Valuing data over processes

Having a mutual understanding of where data originates from and how it’s being used is essential, no matter where they are located or which roles they fulfil. A centralized data catalogue that anyone can contribute to helps to democratize those trusted datasets and extend their reach even further. Encouraging the switch from a process-oriented mindset to a data-oriented mindset is the first step to developing a more data-centric mentality.

At its heart, it’s a step-change that boils down to starting to value data over processes, and grants teams greater access to data that will improve decision-making to inform their own business objectives and those for the collective organization. Proactive efforts to explain to employees why data-centricity is important to business success, and how it impacts their roles, should be at the canter of that process; it will only foster a strong data culture if everyone has understood why they use data from multiple, trusted sources.

Open communication across the business

The concept of a ‘data culture’ also serves to dispel the myth that only those who manage the demand for refined data, and are therefore deemed data professionals, can handle and understand it. Many (if not, all) roles within a business can generate and act on valuable intelligence in their own unique ways. A marketing executive, for example, can take advantage of audience behavior insights to augment team efforts, but also meet customer needs more closely and providing more personalized experiences. But it’ll always be the senior leadership team’s responsibility to use data - transformed from its raw state into an analytics-ready format - to make stronger, data-driven decisions that make a measurable difference.

Raising awareness of the impact that data is having across teams can simply come from actively calling out that impact and how it’s helping them to level-up their work and results. By openly communicating the value of data analytics that’s being realized beyond reporting teams, at all points of the value chain, business leaders can reaffirm the power of data for the benefit of the wider business.

Delivering more meaningful outcomes

Data can be the source of multiple, positive impacts end customers, from making processes more cost-efficient through to faster fulfilment times. Yet its greatest value lies in its ability to inform business decisions and ensure they’re based on genuine insights, as opposed to instinct of a few professionals. There’s already countless evidence that those companies who adopt this model stand a much greater chance of defining a competitive advantage. A global report from McKinsey for instance found that data-driven companies are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable and successful than their counterparts.

The complexity of dealing with different data sources can hinder both productivity and the speed at which data flows within a business. But think about how overwhelmed teams can then feel when it comes to fulfilling their deliverables, too. Any breakdown in the value chain due to resource pressure could have repercussions on the bottom line.

Teams can prioritize different items for the end user and work more efficiently if they learn to do so in smaller increments. Small process improvements might seem insignificant, but even the smallest change helps deliver more meaningful value to customers and showcase what the organization can achieve. All of which contributes to wider efforts to build a more coherent data-driven culture.

Cultivating a strong data culture

On the journey to making their data more usable, business leaders should look at their own team first and foremost. An entire organization needs to be on board and share a mutual understanding of the different impacts of data to overcome barriers in communication and begin to appreciate the benefits it can unlock. There’s a common misconception that once a business has migrated to the cloud, everyone automatically becomes more productive. But in addition to updating hardware and software, there needs to be a shift in how organizations think about using data. Change in data culture and data literacy must come from the bottom-up, in a collaborative effort to augment a data-centric culture and ultimately increase business value for the business.

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