How to develop a ‘data culture’ in your company

Research conducted by BiSurvey, a leading research firm, found that 91% of companies believe that data-driven decision-making is important to their business. This shouldn’t be surprising; we all strive to have the best information available before making choices in our business or personal life. How many hours have we all spent pouring over Amazon reviews of the best television?

What is surprising though, is the data culture being operated at many leading businesses. A lack of structured data management is causing valuable information, that is often readily available in stored data, to slip through the cracks.

Data avalanche

Businesses have developed very successful ways of acquiring data. Every day, we fill in forms and click options that leave behind a useful nugget for a savvy business to understand more about our habits. This propensity to collect has led to a situation where, over the next couple of years, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes (a trillion gigabytes). To help visualize this, if every gigabyte in a zettabyte were a meter, it could span the distance of the world’s longest river, the Amazon (4,345 miles), more than 150,000 times.

Having the data is one thing. The issues start when it comes to storing, organizing, and understanding it. What happens when that data is kept in multiple different sets? What happens when data is extracted and reported in different places? The answer is an erosion of trust in the system, multiple versions of the truth and worse outcomes for the business.

My job is to help businesses unpick the mess and create a data culture that helps rather than hinders. From my work with lots of businesses across sectors, I believe there is some fundamental truths that can help overcome the problem. I call it the data journey, and I would like to take you along for the ride.

The data journey

I recently worked with a leading health, fitness, and leisure business who were facing all the problems outlined above. They were using a mix of different internal systems for reporting on business performance, which all provided different numbers and made it extremely difficult for any management decisions to be made. Their reporting was largely static, and there was a big demand for ad hoc data extracts from the business intelligence team so that users could create their own reporting in Microsoft Excel. As with many businesses, this “off-system” analysis created multiple versions of the truth, creating distrust in the data.

This business, like many others, needed to go on a data journey.

1. Understanding the problem

It’s imperative that the journey starts with a clear understanding of the problem, which involves looking at governance processes, organizational structure, and technologies in the context of data and information to give a holistic view of where enhancements could be made. By baselining, and then regularly measuring organizational data maturity, progress can be seen, and learning adopted.

2. Making a road map

To get to the right destination you always need a map. This is a combination of tactical and strategic plans for each area of the business. Regular waymarks ensure you don’t go off in the wrong direction.

3. Get buy-in at the top

Stretching the journey analogy to breaking point, it’s important to have buy-in from the captain of the ship (senior leaders). Data specialists should have an ongoing, informed conversations with top decision-makers and those who lead data initiatives throughout the business for the project to be a success. Not only this, but everyone in the business must adopt the mindset of data culture for it to be adopted successfully.

4. Stay the course

Ultimately, building a data strategy that puts data at the center of an organization takes education and change, all of which take time and effort. Although it’s not easy to undertake the journey, the rewards are big. Data is integral to the effective and smooth operation of any organization. In order for data to be utilized to the best ability, businesses and governments need to build a data culture through a set of reliable and easy to use data-driven solutions which derive from a clear data strategy and roadmap.

It’s clear that data is a key part of all of our lives today. But, in order for businesses to utilize this data to deliver value and purpose, a solid data culture needs to be embraced. Organizations that foster a collaborative, data-driven culture will ultimately see this result in a competitive advantage in today’s challenging business environment.

Jonathan Scott is a regional director of cloud solutions for Hitachi Solutions Europe.

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