5 best practices for building a data-driven company culture
Without having the proper data in place, organizations are more susceptible to making poor decisions for their business. This has been symptomatic across even some of the top organizations in the world, but times are changing, and having a data-driven culture has become a necessity. Gone are the days of making decisions based off of a gut feeling and simply hoping a right decision is made.
There’s no need to look at a competitor’s site to see how to keep up in the industry. I firmly believe that you can do anything when you have the right data in your hands. However, building a data-driven company culture is no easy task, and many organizations struggle to create one.
Leading with data takes a lot of work. It goes way beyond just coming up with a plan, but actually executing that plan with the patience, stamina, and the determination needed to see it through. A big problem I’ve seen a lot of organizations face is the idea that the latest and greatest tool will help them become more data driven. It’s not as simple as installing a program and creating a document that shows how to use it. The process is more complicated than that.
I’ve also seen organizations lack the expertise on what they need to do to create this change. Building a data-driven company culture is not a one-person job. It involves a team that is unified in gaining the insights they need and putting that data in the hands of people who fully understand the power that data can have to transform a business.
To help get you started on this invaluable journey, I’ve listed below five elements needed to build a data-driven company culture, and some actionable tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Build Data Integrity
When starting the process of building a data-driven culture, I’ve discovered this first step to be crucial: make sure you actually trust your data. Too many people in organizations today, no matter if they are at a C-suite level, a designer, or an analyst, simply don’t trust their data. This mistrust can happen at various scales, and be extremely debilitating for companies because it can prevent them from moving forward.
To counter this issue, audit the data you already have and fix any data integrity issues. Put a data collection plan in place, or consult with the right people who can help. The last thing you need is diving into building a data-driven culture with missing or bad data.
2. Generate Insights from the Data
Once your data is accurate, clean, and trustworthy, you can move on to the next step, which is to generate insights from that data. I strongly believe that in order to change your organization, insights will have to lead the way. It is not enough to invest in data, build data products, or have your CEO cast a vision of a data-driven future.
All these things will have little results unless you arm your decision makers with insights. I recommend you start small by working with folks in your organization who are on the hook for delivering results. Give your product manager insights on how to improve the user experience, share data with your marketing manager on what channels provide the best ROAS, or deliver an analysis to your engineering team on how crash rates are impacting revenue.
Also, be patient, steer clear of overly-ambitious plans, stay focused, and surround yourself with at least one to two other people who believe in the same vision, so you can encourage each other when you get pushback and when you have setbacks. Culture change will not happen overnight.
The success stories I’ve personally seen for a number of Fortune 500 companies have taken two to three years. And don’t forget to celebrate your wins. Broadcast them to the organization so they too can get excited about using data to optimize the business.
3. Tie Insights to Business Outcomes
In order to create the culture change needed in organizations today, the next step is to focus on analyzing the data at hand to deliver insights tied to business outcomes. Many people within organizations want to know what’s going on with their website, app, marketing channel, or customer segment. Why is it successful or unsuccessful? What needs improvement?
To help answer those questions, keep your data focused on business outcomes. What is going to provide value to your company? Keep in mind that this isn’t an overnight process. Evangelizing the data from those insights can be repetitive, but having a detailed strategy in place can help begin the process of improving your user experience and changing the behavior of your customers for the better.
4. Change Your Processes
Now that your organization is accustomed to making data-driven decisions, your processes will need to evolve as you will soon find out there is no room or time in the current processes for data-driven decisions. Your processes will now need to consider insights at the beginning of a new project. How else would you know that you’re making good decisions? Also, there needs to be time given to the data team to collect the data and validate it.
Once your data is flowing through, it is critical that your team establishes a cadence to review performance and make decisions on how to best optimize your app, marketing channel, or business. These process changes are much easier to attain when your organization is already receiving insights and sees their value. It’s important to not skip the insights step, as any process changes will be met with strong pushback.
5. Create Self-Service Data Products
You’ve been successful in building data integrity, sharing insights, and changing the way your organization does business, so naturally folks within your organization will want to get their hands on the data so they too can make better decisions. This is the time to focus on democratizing the data by providing quality and up-to-date documentation.
You’ll need on-going training on what the data means, how it can be accessed and used, and how to integrate the data so it can be ready to use, and not require heavy SQL or ETL skills. In the end, make your data readily available to your organization. Your data should be easy to connect to, easy to understand, and easy to use.
The benefits of an organization taking the above steps are endless. In addition to the big one, uncovering hidden revenue, your organization can feel more confident about business decisions, you can increase customer loyalty, and you can build a trusted brand, both internally and externally. When you focus on these five elements, the door of opportunity is always open.
Simply put, having a data-driven culture for your company can lead to advanced decision-making that propels your business forward, and creates the opportunity of having a sophisticated user experience that only gets better with time. Who wouldn’t want that?
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