10 Tips to Foster a Data-Driven Culture
A data-driven organization is one that fosters a strong commitment to leveraging data for insights that lead to actions. According to a Forrester report, data-driven businesses are “growing at an average of more than 30% annually.”
A data-driven organization is one that fosters a strong commitment to leveraging data for insights that lead to actions. Click & Tweet!
While there are many components of becoming a data-driven organization, the most critical component is that of developing a Data-Driven Culture.
Your culture, after all, is what constantly reinforces and maintains your organization’s ability to use data to make better decisions. You can have the best technology available and even hire really smart people, and yet, still not be a data-driven organization. Culture is the foundation that must be built to create a self-sustaining and lasting data-driven organization.
By developing a data-driven culture, you will be positioned as an organization to make an impact by:
- Improving your customer experience
- Optimizing your marketing performance
- Increasing your competitive advantage
Tips for Developing a Data-Driven Culture
Warning: It is not easy to change the culture. It takes hard work, time, and dedication. But — the results are transformative and absolutely worth it!
Tip #1: Build Trust in Data Aligned with Business Objectives
Trust in your data is arguably the most important tip as there’s nothing more disastrous to your data culture than when people start to distrust the data. I talk about this in a webinar I did with Tealium, titled “Your Data Is A Mess: Take Control Of Data Quality Issues.” You can watch the on-demand webinar to learn a lot of great best practices.
Building trust in data requires having quality data that is aligned to your business objectives. If you need help developing the right strategy for your digital analytics, be sure to read our blog post on how to “Transform Your Business Goals Into a Powerful Analytics Strategy.”
Tip #2: Executive Sponsorship
Your organization must have executive-level sponsorship to foster a data-driven culture. The process of changing the culture is going to require massive transformations. There will be resistance and hurdles that buy-in from the executive team will help navigate much more smoothly than a grassroots effort. This top-down approach is the best because there are going to be silos within your organization that might not see the value in the holistic effort of transforming to a data-driven culture.
An increasingly common executive position that is responsible for fostering a data-driven culture is the Chief Data Officer (CDO), but if your organization does not yet have this position, another executive, such as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can also help sponsor this change.
Tip #3: Know Where You Are and Where You’re Going
Through an Analytics Maturity Assessment, multiple stakeholders (including outside agencies that support you) take a questionnaire that gives you a 360-view of your organization’s reality (baseline).
The results of the assessment will drive the development of a roadmap towards iterative improvement. I don’t know about you, but I’m not as successful when I’m flying-blind; I like to know, educate, and support others around me about our shared mission of change.
Tip #4: Get to Know your Silos and Destroy Them
Silos are groups/departments within an organization that don’t share data/knowledge with other parts of the organization. I think you can immediately see where I’m going with this…
How can you have a data-driven organization, and culture, when you have parts of the organization that don’t share and operate under the same processes as the rest of the organization?
The most effective way to kill your silos is to leverage your executive sponsorship, but also to develop genuine relationships to understand their silo so that you can speak to the benefits of the change you are helping to drive.
Tip #5: Develop an Insights Newsletter
This is a fun tip! An effective agent-of-change is to distribute information in a fun-to-consume way. This newsletter is not a departmental newsletter; it is an organization-wide newsletter. Everyone contributes to it (e.g. finance, marketing, product) and everyone receives it.
This newsletter is leveraged to showcase the data-driven successes by various teams and individuals. By doing so, it helps create a culture around data and a competitive environment to support involvement by others. The added benefit is that it supports the tip of destroying silos. When you highlight what other departments are doing, it triggers cross-department ideas and innovation.
Tip #6: Respect Privacy and Instill a Code of Ethics
As more individuals in your organization are exposed to data, the governance around that data is a critical component of education. In a world of GDPR, CCPA, and other consumer privacy regulations, it is important that everyone (and yes, I mean everyone) in your organization have the right training around data privacy and security. A plan has to be developed around more sensitive data. Having a code of ethics that centers around customer privacy is not to be taken lightly; it is the right thing to do.
Tip #7: Establish Office Hours & Regular Training Campaigns
Not everyone in your organization has the statistical rigor and experience of being an analyst. Just because you tell the entire organization that “hey, we’re going to use data now!” doesn’t mean that individually they are ready. You must support them. Office hours and regular trainings are a great way for your analyst team to support the entire organization with their data needs (also supports breaking down the silos). When possible, office hours and trainings should be in-person for more effective communication.
If you establish office hours and trainings, you have to continually promote them by sharing success stories and iterating for improvement in the format, delivery, and communication. It is a commitment, but a very critical one that supports the cultural transformation.
Tip #8: Launch an Awards Program for Impactful Insights + Actions
When an individual or team have provided data-driven insights that led to meaningful actions it is the perfect opportunity to recognize their impacts! This should also be showcased on your Center of Excellence and Insights Newsletter. Whether this is a monthly award for the top impact or a monetary-based award, the ideas here are boundless and you can make it fun.
Tip #9: Dashboards on TVs
When data is all around you, it is hard to ignore. Imagine walking into an office one day where you see a variety of well-designed and useful information rotating on large screens. This helps reinforce the message that “we use data here.” When data is all around you, it is harder to ignore.
The most important part of this tip is that you put thought behind why, how, and what you showcase on the large monitors. It needs to meaningful, have visual appeal, and be easy to consume. You could take this to a completely different level by creating an interactive touchscreen display!
Warning: It is critical that you focus on the right KPIs and the style of the communication so that you don’t derail the other parts of the culture and encourage unexpected behaviors. While the goal is to have a data-driven culture, you must be sensitive and keep balance with the other aspects of the organization’s culture.
Tip #10: Ensure that Data is Accessible (Self-Service Analytics)
As you break down your silos, you will uncover hidden data that no other parts of your organization knew of. With a well-planned approach to data governance, you can start to share much of this information in a way that is accessible and easy to use by other parts of the organization. Data from different systems/silos/departments, when combined, can create better insights.
I recommend establishing levels of access that are based on experience. For example, not everyone needs direct access to your data warehouse to write SQL statements against it. Instead, you should start with curated dashboard visualizations that are interactive enough to support drill-downs and exploration.
Iterative Improvement is What Drives Success
You must customize your approach towards what fits in your unique organization. Let’s be clear that this is not something that happens overnight; it is iterative. Further, you can never stop working towards an improved culture around data in your organization. You must maintain and continually improve. Data velocity is ever-increasing and how you leverage data must keep pace in order to maintain your competitive advantage.
…you can never stop working towards an improved culture around data in your organization. You must maintain and continually improve. Click & Tweet!
If you’d like to dive deeper on this topic, I encourage you to read the following resources:
- “Creating a Data-Driven Organization” is a book that discusses culture as well as other aspects of becoming a data-driven organization.
- “Five building blocks of a data-driven culture” is a blog post that offers additional tips on building a data-driven culture.
- “Why you should be data-informed and not data-driven” is a blog post that discusses the importance of using data to inform decisions, but to not use data as the only variable in making decisions.
What other tips do you have that have helped create a data-driven culture in your organization? I’d love to learn more about your successes and help others reading this blog understand what is working well (and what’s not)!
I can’t help it… I have two more bonus tips!
Bonus Tip #1: Develop a Center of Excellence with Internal Case Studies
As part of developing your organization’s data governance, a Center of Excellence should be in place. Internal case studies should be created to highlight successes and kept on your Center of Excellence. This has the added benefit of sharing a critical part of your organization’s culture with new employees that you onboard.
Bonus Tip #2: Take Action
Insights are great, but if you stop there, how can you make an impact on your organization’s KPIs? Insights should lead to taking action. Leverage your insights to take action by improving the customer experience through testing and optimization and by optimizing your marketing performance. Fostering an environment that supports taking action is how you establish a data-driven culture in the digital workplace. Lastly, as mentioned further above, always balance your decisions with more than just the quantitative data. Use other variables (e.g. qualitative data) to make truly informed decisions.
Fostering an environment that supports taking action is how you establish a data-driven culture in the digital workplace. Click & Tweet!