There’s a time and a place for everything in the digital transformation—except gut instinct. As I’ve stated before, the massive amount of data flooding into our companies every single day is now impossible to ignore. Leaders have the responsibility of bringing data-backed decision-making to the forefront of their business strategy. And—like almost everything in the digital age—that all starts with culture.
If your company is already maintaining a pristine data lake—and making the time to swim in it—you’re ahead of the curve. As I’ve written in the past, it can be a tricky process, and many companies are still figuring out the right way to collect, maintain, analyze, and act on the data being tossed their way. It can be overwhelming, and it’s only going to get more complicated as the Internet of Things (IoT) starts flooding our clouds and networks with information. Now is the time to ensure your company is ready to move forward with the influx. The following are a few tips for building a data-driven culture.
Start Backward to Go Forward
There is so much information available right now that one of the biggest challenges for leaders is to help make that information more manageable. That means stripping away unnecessary data to find what you really want to know. Knowing what numbers and insights you’re looking for—and how they clearly correlate to improving your business outcomes—is the most important step of your data planning process. Without it, any data you collect will be worthless.
Make It Easier
Data can be complicated, overwhelming, and even threatening for users who have not worked extensively with it. I’ve written a lot about the importance of user experience (UX) in digital transformation, and data is not excluded from the UX issue. Employees need to be comfortable with using data if you really want them to use it. To help, invest in technology that makes data easier, be it better data visualization or Data as a Service (DaaS) providers. Spend time creating clear definitions of the metrics you’re looking for, and what they mean, and make it a priority to ensure every single employee in your company is data literate.
Communicate Its Value
Make data part of your internal communications with employees. Yes, there are general numbers out there about the value of data backed decision-making—for instance research showing that analytics pays $13.01 for every dollar spent. But, it will mean even more when you put it in your company’s terms: how much is this data saving in time and cost? How much is it increasing web hits, app downloads, or sales? How much will it increase this year’s bonuses? Tell your employees in words they want to hear.
Create One True Source
You will never be able to make good decisions based on bad data. This is the reason leaders need to focus on building one clean, solid, reliable data source. I have a friend who worked for a nonprofit organization that had at least four systems of information that never quite fully synced up. Every report they ran contrasted with the next. In the end, they gave up on publishing donor gratitude reports because they knew their lists would never be right. Swampy data streams are wasted data streams. In the end, analytics only as good as the source.
Use the Data—Quickly
Perhaps the most overlooked step of creating a data-driven culture is also the most obvious: using the data in a timely manner! It doesn’t matter how much you invest in obtaining data, sorting data, or hiring the right data team. If you don’t make decisions based on that data before it gets stale, a true data-driven culture—and everything it offers—will never develop.
As I noted above, data can be overwhelming. To help your employees adjust, pick a few key metrics to start. Make a clear case for why they matter. And, just as importantly, empower your people to use them. Teach that even negative metrics can have a positive value when the right insights are gathered. The technology is here to help your business run better. It’s time to show your employees you trust it.
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