When we think about data, we often go to the technological side of things: databases, servers, and software. But data isn’t inherently technological, it’s facts and statistics, numbers and metrics. Thinking about a data-driven culture from this perspective, the key comes down to one thing: people. How people use data, how they perceive it, trust it, share it, and act upon it, are the roots to a pervasive data-driven culture.
Building a data-driven culture isn’t something that happens overnight, or something that comes as the result of installing a new tool. Cultural shift comes from strategic leadership. In this article, we’ll explore three key pillars of cultural shift: empowerment, enablement, and engagement.
Employee empowerment is a management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance.
Leveraging this concept, leaders must instill the values of continuous improvement and innovation. Simply asking the question “how do we measure success?” of a business process or function can be the key to unlocking the hidden insights in data. If we are to measure success – a goal which must be clearly defined – then we must measure the performance of those components that contribute to the goal. Once the goal and its component parts are understood, data must be collected in order to compute performance, moving the organization to explore novel and innovative methods of data collection.
Enablement, in our context, can be defined as providing employees with the capability and resources to accomplish data-driven tasks.
Knowledge is core to enablement – providing employees with the knowledge that they need to collect, analyze, and leverage data. Not every employee is going to be a data expert, nor should they be, but being able to access and understand data and information germane to their job is critical.
Resources – employees must have the resources they need to be effective. This ranges from experts to answer questions and provide guidance, to tools that allow data and information to be readily analyzed and shared. Most importunately, data and analytics shouldn’t be viewed as an IT cost center, but rather an organizational strategic asset. Budget should be allocated in this sense with emphasis on providing business units with enough resources to support data-driven initiatives.
Empowerment and enablement are all for naught without employee engagement – the mutual agreement to do something by a certain time. Because cultural shift and growth is difficult, it can easily be derailed by short-term concerns, allowing things to fall back to how things were done. Building a plan, a roadmap, and a responsibility matrix is key to execution. Leaders, managers, and employees must understand and set expectations and be held to them. Issuing a directive of “no more gut-based decisions” sounds good but has little impact on the real operation of the business.
Cultural shift is an ongoing activity that shapes and sculpts the face of the organization, its people, and its products. By moving to a data-driven culture, organizations benefit from improved efficiency, performance, innovation, knowledge, and competitive advantage.