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4 steps that establish a data-driven company culture

It’s more important than ever for companies to be able to make decisions based on data. But creating a data-driven culture isn’t simple. Zara Hawkins, data culture evangelist, Looker offers four suggestions for what to do to get it started.

Data is no longer about making observations, but about prompting organisations to ask critical questions. In turn, it has the power to completely transform a business, driving new revenue streams and creating a future-proof business model. However, data itself can only do so much and becoming a data-led business is only possible if the people within an organisation are prepared to embrace a data-driven culture.

These days, a data-driven culture is a community made up of data-driven individuals across all departments and levels. These communities are where everyone is empowered to use data critically, to make decisions, and to start conversations rather than close them down. But for organisations that have failed to promote this culture shift, or haven’t invested in improving employee’s data literacy, success is lagging.

Meanwhile, competitors charge ahead, driven by the democratisation of data and the ability for all to access, understand and communicate with it. Employees are enabled and empowered to make data-driven decisions to keep the business on the right track – there’s no bottleneck to get insights and there is no ambiguity thanks to the governed foundations the data teams have put in place to support this culture.

Unfortunately creating – not to mention maintaining – a data culture isn’t as simple as just asking employees to use the platforms being implemented. Instead, there are certain initiatives that can encourage an internal data community.

1. Include “data-driven” in your mission statement and goals

A data strategy should be properly integrated within a company’s strategy. Businesses should no longer be working towards a generic placeholder mission statement and gone are the days of generic objectives that reference transparency and trustworthiness. Instead, mission statements should be concrete and actually shape desired business behaviours. 

These goals should be actionable, relatable and accountable so they can also be successfully incorporated into departmental objectives. Moreover, create shared data-related objectives, such as agreeing on the definition of business metrics cross-departmentally to improve governance. 

2. Spark your internal data community

An organisation’s data culture won’t be much of a community if it’s just one person. In order for data cultures to succeed, you should encourage recruitment managers to include statements like “data-driven” in job descriptions so the business is enticing individuals with that mindset from here on out. And just as importantly, tap into that goldmine of data-savvy and data-thirsty colleagues already present across every department!

Work to build your guild as you identify employees across the business that are passionate about data. Having a guild also means you will have an extended team of people who sit in multiple business functions who can help roll out data-driven, cross-departmental strategies. Work with them to build relevant resources and run interactive sessions that will resonate with their area of the business, different skill sets and different engagement levels. When doing this, be cognisant of other initiatives that are going on in the business and see if you can work with them to introduce data more broadly to your company.

3. Build a dashboard accessible to everyone 

There is no doubt that employees love to see and feel like they can impact overall company performance. Numbers like revenue, profit, number of clients and so on can spark great conversations and can help to demystify data as a term. 

Including a few of these in some company-wide dashboards has the potential to pique the interest of end-users and ultimately foster a data-driven culture.

4. Be engaging! 

Data can be a daunting, anxiety-inducing word for those who are unfamiliar with it. To take the scare factor out of data you should consider showcasing fun metrics that people will enjoy tracking. You might include data about hours volunteered against an annual target, the number of multiport adaptors lost this year pivoted by department, or snack consumption quarter-over-quarter!

One way to kick-start adoption is to capture activity levels like steps, hours of sleep, or calories burned and creating some healthy competition between departments. It’s a great way to encourage collaboration and promote a data culture. 
In order for a great data platform to succeed, there must be a strong data-driven culture in place. This mind-set will create an engaged workforce and allow employees to be a part of an internal data community. 
Zara Hawkins is data culture evangelist at Looker

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