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4 tips to foster a data-driven culture

Bilde av Anja Loug Helland
by Anja Loug Helland

24. Feb 2021, 7 minutes reading time

4 tips to foster a data-driven culture

Readers of this blog will know we emphasize the importance of culture when building a data-driven organization. Does your organization have strong ambitions of becoming more data-driven in the coming years? Here are 4 tips to foster a data-driven culture.

Keep in mind that no organization is the same. As such, the tips presented in this article are not to be considered as necessarily chronological, nor as a direct recipe for success, but they are advice based on our experience with our customers. They can happen in any order, depending on the maturity of your organization.


Tip #1: Find your champions

Fostering any desired culture requires direction, which means having someone lead the way. In the context of building a data-driven culture, you want to find your most data-enthusiastic employees and nurture them as your sponsors. This is often an employee who is using data as an integrated part of their job, diving both into details and supporting others with data or reports. 

These employees will probably have many ideas and can play a central role in prioritizing and communicating internally. Listening to and empowering data-enthusiast, by for example starting a pilot/project where they serve as experts can kick-start a chain of events that will make your employees and your organization more data-driven. These beacons will serve as lodestars – spreading eagerness and devotion for becoming data-driven throughout the organization. 

Reminder: If there are no champions, it might just be you.


Tip #2: Start at the top

Although your organization aims for grassroots cultivation through empowered employees passionate about data, you nonetheless need to start at the top. Any effort of fostering a data-driven culture must be anchored in a business strategy. The clue is to start with the strategy, set expectations and map out possibilities from this vantage point. What decisions can potentially be supported by data? 

Leaders serve a significant role here. If an organization, through having a data-driven strategy anchored at the very top, gets leaders to utilize data actively and visibly, this practice will trickle down through the organization. This, in our experience, is one of the main drivers of a data-driven culture. 

To make sure everyone in the organization is pulling in the same direction, you also need to clearly communicate that this is not about replacing people – it is about working differently, using data more actively at every role and level. A looming threat of redundancy is never motivating. 


Tip #3: Find the strongest case

The best way to hit the ground running is to display, by example, how data can drive better decisions or optimize processes. Start by having key people in your organization look at processes that can be optimized, and anchor that to the potential value of data. A good tip is to go with the processes that generate the most value. What can your organization do to have them generate even more value? Perhaps there is something to learn from other industries?

However, while cases that deal with value creation through either direct cash flow or resource efficiency make for persuasive pitches, they can be more time-consuming or costly. Other alternatives are cases involving regulatory compliance or strategic goals such as sustainability or diversity. Generally, any optimized process directly impacting the top or bottom line, which often makes work more exciting, is a convincing case for working on being data-driven.


Tip #4: Involve everybody

Competency is an integral part of the culture. But fostering a data-driven culture is about more than just technical competency. Yes, you need to educate everyone in your organization about tools, what data is and where it comes from. But just as important: What are the benefits? Why are we doing this? Education in this context is as much about understanding business value as it is about technical proficiency. 

It is also about involvement. Employees need to be involved from the very beginning, where you map out challenges with today’s culture, all the way through measures, education and the process of change.

And change is hard. It is a never-ending activity that should involve the entire organization, preferably with a mix of repetitive sessions and new sessions at different levels of technological competence. To make such a progress sustainable and motivating, it is crucial to allow for errors and dead ends. Allowing mistakes is to encourage trying – and trying is learning. 


A small playbook

With this advice in hand, your organization should be one step closer to having a clear path to a data-driven culture. While there are multiple ways of turning this into a playbook, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. In our experience, however, implementing this in practice could look something like this: 

  1. Define culture within your own organization, e.g «the ideas, customs and social behavior of our employees.»
  2. Identify and understand your organization’s business goals.
  3. Find a sponsor – preferably within the leadership.
  4. Interview people in your organization about questions related to the culture. Is anything holding them back from working towards the business goals?
  5. Identify a business case that is ripe for change.
  6. Involve people close to the case at hand, letting them contribute with their suggestions of measures. It is key to make everyone comfortable with the process of change.
  7. Evaluate the effects and propose new measures.
  8. Educate and communicate
  9. Keep in mind that this is a continuous process.

Already have the roadmap but struggle to get leadership buy-in for a data-driven culture? Watch this space for a few tips on how to get past the sticking points. 

Download free e-book: Building a data-driven organization

Anja Loug Helland

Anja Loug Helland

Anja is Head of Advisory and co-founder of BI Builders and has worked with data warehousing and data platforms for over 15 years. With experience from a range of different clients, Anja is an expert in understanding our customers' needs and mapping those needs to data and data models to achieve business value.

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