Does your organisation have a data culture?
The amount of data has exploded in the last decade. Ever more organisations have started their journey to becoming data-driven and utilising data to make better decisions more often. As a result, organisations recognise that fostering a data culture is vital and are starting to ask what “good” looks like.
Today, every organisation is a data company. Organisations need to be data-driven to succeed. This does not mean amassing data and hoping it will mean something. It means collecting, analysing, and using data to make better decisions more often.
What exactly is data culture and how does it affect data quality?
Organisational culture is the glue that holds a company together. It’s about people, their behaviours, and beliefs. It’s about “How we do things around here.” It manifests itself in two ways – through budgets, policies, rules and manuals, and through values, behaviours, and attitudes. Culture is often described through the iceberg analogy – only a tiny part of what goes on is visible; the vast majority is not.
It is a similar story when it comes to data quality: data governance – the explicit rules, standards, and manuals that are in place to govern data is only the tip of the iceberg. The mindset, collaboration and behaviours that support it happen out of sight but have a far greater impact. Surveys of executives frequently report cultural challenges – not technological challenges – as the biggest impediments to successful adoption of data initiatives.
It is difficult to measure and grasp what is invisible. At Anmut, we have worked hard to develop a way to measure the value of an organisation’s data. It is much harder to do the same for culture. There are many elements that shape an organisation’s culture, but research commonly lists three key areas:
1. Executive commitment
The most visible. “Do as I do” goes a very long way in this instance. Executives in data-driven organisations model good data behaviour instead of only sponsoring it. What does this mean? Data gets treated as a key strategic asset because it helps leaders focus on the right areas by separating facts from opinions. These organisations invest in the management of data and create the infrastructure to ensure the integrity of the asset.
As with any investment, leaders must first understand where the action happens and which areas to prioritise. Knowing the high-impact business problems will deliver “quick wins’, helping leaders build credibility and get buy-in from the rest of the business. Organisations that skip this step and invest in technology without a defined use case, will almost certainly fail.
The most important one. Organisations with a strong data culture place trust in their people. Everyone in the business understands why and how data gets used, how it gets created, stored, and managed. Employees trust the data they work with because they see the quality of it and act to preserve that quality. Expectations around data access, security, architecture, and use are set out in a company-wide governance framework. Many organisations have established formal data stewardship roles to maintain oversight and act as “champions”.
Relationships and participation are key to everything that happens. Before the implementation of a new software, leaders take the time to understand a team’s problems with data and how it affects their daily work. They realise it comes down to the quality of the data. These organisations are inviting their employees onto the journey instead of imposing a new solution on them. The effect is two-fold: raising awareness of the value of data and creating a sense of purpose. This discovery process takes time but equips leaders with the facts and support they need before implementing a new software or process.
The most fun. A collaborative way of working benefits from diverse teams and shared goals. Organisations that foster cross-team collaboration provide the basis for innovation and excitement: knowing and understanding how others in the business use data can spark ideas and create more efficient processes. For this to happen, data must flow seamlessly and be fit for its intended purpose.
Data-driven organisations don’t reinvent their data, they make it work harder. This means ensuring data is accurate, complete, consistent, timely, valid, and unique – and this is everyone’s job. The focus moves away from a team building something in isolation to bringing everyone on board. It creates a habit of sharing best practices across the organisation and increases awareness of data and the ways it gets used.
Becoming more data-driven is all about mindset. It is a challenging process that requires executive commitment, trust, and collaboration.
Don’t expect anything to change if there is a lack of commitment at the top. Organisational leaders must act as role models and prioritise the use of data because their vision serves as the anchor for the goals and targets of everyone else in the organisation.
Secondly, trust in the data that the organisation holds is crucial – employees can make better decisions more often only when the fitness and integrity of data is ensured. This must be the basis for any system implementation.
Lastly, collaboration is key to fostering innovation and maintaining good data. It is only when teams work together – instead of in isolation – that the full potential of the organisation’s data can be unleashed.
In the end, the goal of this transformation should be to achieve lasting business engagement and a sense of purpose. This is hard work and won’t happen overnight. It is a journey that organisations need to have a clear roadmap for.
Anmut is a strategic data asset management company. We can walk some of these miles with you while we set you up for the rest of the adventure. For more information, please see our solutions or get in touch.