The ManageForce Blog

Creating a Data Culture

Posted by John Hughes | 4/13/16 7:00 AM

Remember the days, possibly a year or two ago, when you thought that your organization should maybe implement some sort of business intelligence initiative?


That project may have seemed like a nice thing to do, and perhaps you would give it more serious thought eventually. Well, today is that day. Big data is here to stay, and any business that wants to thrive is running, not walking, towards big data implementation.


Business Intelligence (BI) is not just an interesting idea or project you can throw around at a user group conference or cocktail party. It’s the new core focus of businesses with plans to grow, and grow smart.


When considering big data and the impacts on your business, well, remember that it’s an ongoing journey. Creating a company culture driven around the use of data is not just implementing one BI project, and you’re done as soon as it’s all up and running. Creating a data culture within your organization means making sure every team understands the purpose and use of data, making data an integral part of operations, and instilling the motivation for every employee to focus on all the different ways your business can use data to help the business grow.


Your technology stack, the data it provides, and using that data to improve is inherent to every business. Life will never be the same. And that's terrific.


Something Big Has Started

So, what can you expect from big data and a data-driven culture?


Well, for starters, massively increased visibility into market trends and customer preferences. Analyzing data of all types uncovers hidden patterns and unknown correlations that pave the way for more effective targeting, marketing, higher revenue, more efficient operations, effective customer service, and the implementation of other competitive advantages.


Data brings big changes to your company culture, but it’s not as scary as change seems. In fact, a lot of businesses find that focusing on big data management gives their teams a lot more confidence because they can make strategic decisions based on hard data, not historical precedents or gut feelings. Minimizing risk and improving strategic decisions are enormous components of big data. Data-focused businesses, meaning the companies that do something with and apply all the data at their fingertips, see better ROI, smarter operations, and happy customers. You’ll wonder what took you so long to jump on the big data bandwagon once data drives how and why your company operates.



There's a reason we call it business intelligence

These days, all companies have tons of data. Knowing what to do with it and acting on it is what makes the “Big” difference with data.


You can have all the tools in the world but if your company isn’t operating from a data-driven perspective, the return on those applications plateaus. Don’t panic, though. It’s not as if you have to start from square one. The point is to instill in your company the motivation to find the best ways to apply and use all the data you already have, and will continue to gather. You’ll still glean information from your enterprise apps. But, get the right analytical tools and capabilities to make the data work for you. The big difference is that your new data culture will enable everyone to apply as much data as possible to make smarter decisions to improve the business.


Building a data culture

All the talk about data and analytics can sound like a technology initiative when, in reality, a data culture is not just about technology at all. It’s about incorporating a mindset for your enterprise that focuses on empowering employees to make smarter decisions to move the business forward. Essentially, creating a data culture builds on the past and introduces analytics to your data mix to make it a more valuable commodity. Changing to a data-driven mindset can include some challenges at the onset:


  • Encouraging employees to rely on analytics instead of past behaviors and gut instinct
  • Uncovering information about customers, products and performance across various systems and data formats (legacy systems, ERP, business apps, transactions, emails, texts, social media and more)
  • Making data and analytics accessible to a wide variety of people across the company
  • Encouraging employees to think in terms of using business questions to drive the architecture instead of technology capabilities
  • Boosting self-service access to data to build a mindset of data-driven decisions
  • Providing an environment of quick, iterative discovery that immerses analytical teams in data to discover trends, performance, etc.


Capitalizing on all available information throughout the enterprise requires changes for businesses when it comes to collecting, processing, and, especially, acting on information. It’s great to have all that information, but it’s critical to have a plan to focus in on what can serve business intelligence and bring value for the business. Once your entire company feels the value in data, growth will come as a result of big data management practices.


Characteristics of a data culture

Big data has the power to help companies see new and unique opportunities to improve customer loyalty, boost sales, and identify product enhancements. There’s nothing new about the business objectives, just the sources, and quality, of information to drive the changes.


Even as big data encourages companies to throw off old methodologies and mindsets, there are a few things that must be present in for it to be successful. Commitment. Commitment. Commitment. From everyone, from top-down leadership to bottom-up employees. Senior leaders have to be on board, and really understand the value of data, to communicate the overall vision in order for the organization to adapt. And from the point that big data becomes the rule for the enterprise, it is assumed to be part of everyone’s job description.


Some jobs will change too, especially in the types of roles that will emerge as critical pieces of the team. It’s quite common now to see Chief Analytics Officers and Chief Data Officers. It's important to remember, though, that just changing job titles is not what big data management is all about; there has to be top-down understanding to change the way a company utilizes data, and turns data management into a product in itself.

So, about that one time a few years ago when you were thinking about making big data a part of your organization. It's fine to be unsure, but don't just stay there. Ask yourself, will our company benefit from instilling a culture around data and turning all the information we have into a product in itself?


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Written by John Hughes


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