We don't need to persuade you about the importance of data. To say data is important for business today would be like suggesting the sun is important for daylight. It's a given. In fact, companies driven by data are 58% more likely to surpass revenue goals than those that are not focused on data.
But data in isolation isn't enough.
Despite the billions spent every year in the pursuit of becoming more data-driven, 8% of businesses successfully scale their analytics to get value from their data.
Just as sunlight isn't enough to grow a garden — it needs other components such as water, seeds, care, and oversight. Those components create a collective environment of collaboration working towards a unified goal — growth.
In the case of data, this means fostering a data culture, or rather, a culture of data.
Data culture is the combination of values, behaviors, processes, and infrastructure that enable an organization to turn data into insights that inform business decisions. It is every single member of a team understanding the importance of data, using data to do their jobs, and trusting data to guide decisions.
While it takes significant investment, a data culture is not a thing you can simply buy. It's not a product or a service. You can't outsource it or import it. A data culture is something you build by instilling the right values in your organization and then nurturing those values through the right behaviors, processes, and infrastructure.
With that being said, there are usually three arms of a data culture: People, Technology, and Processes. Let's take a look at what these mean, and how you can implement them in your organization.
People for Data Culture
A data culture is not a single department's responsibility. It starts with leadership but needs to be championed by everyone in the organization from the front lines to the back office. Data culture sounds like a lofty concept but it's actually quite simple: it's a way of thinking and working with data that is pervasive throughout an organization.
Empowering your team to embrace data culture can be split up into three parts: inspiration from the top, data leadership, and training.
Data Culture Inspiration From the Top
This starts (as most initiatives do) with the C-suite. The CEO does not need to be a data expert, but they have to have a passion for data and be an advocate for its use throughout the organization. While "data" isn't exactly something to scream with unbridled passion, its benefits really can be quite inspiring. Just think of the possibilities:
These are the types of things that can get CEOs excited about data. And it's these possibilities that need to be communicated throughout the organization as the reason for building a data culture.
Data Culture Leadership
If you don't already have a Chief Data Officer (CDO), we won't judge you (only 21% of companies have a CDO), but you might want to consider hiring one. The CDO is responsible for developing the data strategy, which will be critical in ensuring everyone across the organization is moving in the same direction.
The CDO should also be charged with building a team of data experts who can help turn data into insights and then work with other departments to implement those insights. This team will be the backbone of your data culture, so it's important to make sure you hire the right people.
Data and Data Culture Training
But it's not just the C-suite and data team that need to be advocates for data. Every leader in the organization should be championing data and its use. This means managers need to be held accountable for making data-driven decisions and employees need to be empowered to use data in their day-to-day work.
To do this you need to train your team members on how to use data in their roles. But it also means giving them the freedom to experiment with data and try new things. A data culture can't be stifled by a fear of failure — employees need to feel like they can take risks without repercussions.
Processes for Data Culture
Next comes data processes, which are the systems and methods you put in place to ensure data is accurate, accessible, and actionable.
There are three key things you need to do to get your data processes in order: data governance, data alignment, and data collaboration.
Set up Data Governance
Data governance is all about ensuring the accuracy, quality, and security of your data. This includes things like developing policies and procedures for data entry, establishing who has access to which data, and setting up processes for auditing data. Essentially governance means knowing what data you have, where it is, and who is using it at all times.
Set up Data Alignment
Data alignment is all about figuring out who will get what value from what data, and how to prioritize the distribution of the data. This is usually done through a data or analytics Center of Excellence (COE), which is ideally a hub and spoke model. Each department has a data lead who is responsible for working with the COE to ensure everyone in their department has the data they need.
Set up Data Collaboration
Data collaboration, even externally, is no longer a dirty word. In fact, it's essential to success in today's data-driven world. The key is to set up processes and protocols for how data will be shared, who will have (confidential) access to it, and what the expectations are for using the data.
Data collaboration can be incredibly valuable — just think of all the data your organization doesn't have that could be helpful. Collaborative data collection, whether internal or external, can create data sets that give you a 360-degree view of your customers and help you track industry trends.
But it's important to remember that you need to protect your data as well. So make sure you have the right agreements and contracts in place before sharing any data with external partners.
👉 Learn more about how data sharing works here.
Technology for Data Culture
If people's behaviors are what fosters a data culture, technology is what provides the tools to build it. While the most complex, it is actually arguably the easiest component of data culture to implement — BI Concepts is extremely adept at it, both in consultation and execution.
In our minds, there are seven major requirements that your data technology needs to fulfill:
Flexible and Interoperable
Your data architecture is the foundation of your data culture. It needs to be flexible enough to accommodate new data sources, and interoperable enough to allow different data sets to talk to each other.
Your data technology should make it easy for different teams to work together on data projects. This includes things like sharing data sets, working on joint analyses, and co-authoring reports.
Your data technology needs to help you meet all the compliance requirements for your industry. This includes things like GDPR, HIPAA, and SOX.
Your data technology should be able to scale as your data culture grows. This means being able to handle more data, more users, and more complexity.
Your data technology needs to keep your data safe from unauthorized access and breaches. This includes things like encryption, user authentication, and activity monitoring.
Your data should be priced based on how much you use it. This will help you save money as you grow your data culture and expand your use of data.
Easy to Use
Your data technology should be easy to use, even for non-technical users. This includes things like an intuitive user interface, self-service features, and built-in help.
There are many different data technologies on the market, but not all of them will meet all seven of these requirements. So it's important to do your research and find the one that's right for you.
The Bottom Line on Data Culture
Data culture is essential to success in today's data-driven world. It's all about aligning people, processes, and technology to create a company-wide commitment to using data to make better decisions.
It may seem daunting at first as there are many ways to foster a data culture in your organization. To start your approach, the crux of your thinking should be understanding that a data problem is simply a business problem. Even if you think you have mountains of data to decipher, start by deciding what you want to understand, and from there we can solve the data problem based on your business needs.
BI Concepts can help you understand how to merge your business goals with your data technologies and fully realize your data capabilities. Beyond that, we can also help you build the data culture you need to succeed. Contact us today to learn more.