The importance of fostering a data-driven culture as part of the digital transformation effort can never be underestimated. Exploding quantities of data have the potential to fuel a new era of fact-based innovation in corporations, backing up new ideas with solid evidence. Buoyed by hopes of better satisfying customers, streamlining operations, and clarifying strategy, firms have amassed data, invested in technologies, and paid handsomely for analytical talents in the past decade. Building a data-driven culture is an often talked topic with very less actual implication.
The biggest obstacle in creating a data-based business is not technical, they are cultural. Even though when the task to inject data into decision-making sounds simple, it is far harder to make it a routine. This needs a total make-over of the working system and employees’ mindset. In KPMG’s 2019 US CEO Outlook Study, around 67% of CEOs said that they have ignored insights given by data analysis or computer-driven models. Analytics-driven company culture begins at the top. Yet, most executives are uncomfortable with analytics platforms, opting to follow their gut and intuition when making decisions. Data from surveys taken over time suggest that the problem may be getting worse. For example, a NewVantage Partners survey of large US firms found that only 31% of companies say that they are data-driven, a figure that has declined from 37% in 2017. In 2019, more than three quarters reported that business adoption of big data and AI initiatives remain a major challenge. But 95% of them said that cultural, organisational, and process challenges presented the biggest roadblocks to adoption. Remarkably, only 5% cited technology as a problem. With data being increasingly seen as assets to organisations, it is now time to build a culture that best suits the data-driven future.
The Role of CEOs
Organisations work on a pyramid structure. The order comes from top-notch leaders to employees on various grounds. Henceforth, creating a culture is solely in the hands of senior leaders, especially the CEO. Many times, CEOs approach data purely from a business point of view, which makes it impossible to implement a successful strategy if the company’s culture hasn’t already embraced the idea of being data-driven. That type of company-wide culture needs to be increasingly collaborative and interactive. To help nurture this culture, CEOs need to think big but start small. Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Therefore, CEOs should begin with a baby step like implementing an educational program for employees to sensitize them on data-driven culture and its functionalities. CEOs can seek the help of an operational partner called Chief Data Officer, a role that is growing in prevalence, visibility and scope.
Making a Cultural Twist
While CEOs are at the centre of a cultural change, three main strategies can be followed to implement a cultural change program. They are,
Educational program: Programs such as design thinking exercises, group problem solving and hands-on hackathon tend to be more effective than talking heads. Companies are encouraged to carry out educational programs at every level of the organisation.
Leading by example: Recognising and highlighting managers and employees who are leading the way in using data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their jobs is another way to show value across an organisation. This will make other employees follow suit.
Promotions and rewards: At last, rewarding employees with faster promotion and salary increase can get other workers to notice the value data analytics can bring to a person’s professional life, along with advancements in the company.