Mike Congdon, Head of Business Insights, OfficeMax New Zealand
As a regular data & analytics conference attendee and occasional speaker, where these days the subject of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented analytics are often high on the agenda; I am still intrigued when I hear from delegates: “AI isn’t even on the radar for us at present, we’re still trying to get our people using data”.
So how do you get your organisation using data? Today the phrase data driven culture appears a lot in job advertisements and descriptions, increasingly even with roles outside the field of data & analytics. But what does having a data driven culture really mean?
For me having a data driven culture simply means that data underpins fact based decisions, and said decision making is prevalent across an organisation. No decisions based on gut feels, no HiPPO’s (highest paid person’s opinion), and not just the decision making responsibility resting with a select few. Being data driven means that all employees are empowered to make decisions within the framework of the organisation’s strategic objectives and individual business unit plans. For many organisations this is quite the paradigm shift, and that is exactly how it should be, as it is a fundamental change to the way data is treated within organisations – as a strategic asset, not just a by-product of a business process.
So how does your organisation get a data driven culture? If only it were something that could be purchased off the shelf, or come out of a box! Whilst there isn’t a totally fail-safe list of steps to take, if your organisation aspires to said, you should give consideration to the following core tenants of a culture that is driven by data.
To facilitate use of data it makes sense to get it all in the same place so that business users don’t have the hassle of needing to jump between systems to get what they want. Proactively ingesting data into a centralised repository, an EDW or Data Lake, is an approach used by many, and increasingly there are other alternatives that enable access to data in different systems via a consolidated means. E.g. The logical data warehouse and data virtualization.
Being data driven means that all employees are empowered to make decisions within the framework of the organisation’s strategic objectives and individual business unit plans
Data latency can be a significant determinant of data use thus due diligence should be given to when data users in your organisation actually need data e.g. real time or near time. Overnight operational reports from an EDW will suit some of your users; however others may need real time data to facilitate citizen data science activities.
Cleanliness and quality of data is something that can really derail efforts here thus understanding your level of data quality, wrapping metrics around said to measure, is important, as are efforts around establishing a golden record through robust MDM practices.
User friendly data self-service tooling is a great way to expand use of data. As is lean data governance that removes unnecessary bureaucracy attached to accessing data, whilst still catering for concerns around privacy, security and ethical use thereof. Ongoing promotion and communication of the data available and how to access it, via the usual means available to your organisation (Intranets, company newsletters etc) should be exploited.
Educate Data Users
With your data consolidated and more easily assessable to your budding decision makers; for a significant step change in utilisation educate your workforce in the dialect of data. Through concerted data literacy programme you can assess the level of competence data users in your organisation have with respect to utilisation and understanding of said, and upskill as appropriate. Improving the ability of employees in your organisation to work with, better understand, contextualize, and argue with data, is at the heart of a data driven culture.
Other more data literate members of your organisation can benefit from the implementation of central data & analytics function run analytics communities of practice whereby citizen data scientists within your organisation can learn from, and collaborate with, the central function. Among other things this propagates further clarity around any sanctioned business rules that should be observed with the use of data in reporting and analytics reducing “whose data/report is correct?” arguments.
Senior leadership within your organisation can also become much more data aware through the implementation of data governance forums, and also through more innovative approaches such as executive level data education programmes involving, among other things, data scientists shadowing executives for a period of time to put a data lens over their everyday business matters.
Workforce Decision Empowerment
With all the factors that enable a data driven culture being lined up the final aspect is the top down empowerment of your workforce to make decisions, based on data. Organisation wide periodic workshops concerning the organisations strategic objectives and how employees can contribute to said (making decisions using data) are an ideal opportunity to do this.
In summary, if your data & analytics programme includes the aforementioned aspects, then you can rest assured that you are setting in place the foundation to enable the sort of change in mind-set that will lead to an organisational culture that is driven by data.