Building a Data Driven Culture
Data science is here to stay and several business are now realizing the benefits of making data driven decisions. Many have started to put in place systems and structures to support this new trend. But making this a part of an organization’s culture is not that simple. Most employees are unwilling to give up their Excel spreadsheets for a new Business Intelligence tool. Managers and executives often prefer to base their decisions on past experience, gut feel and anecdotes rather than on what the data are saying.
There’s no easy way to build a data-driven culture. But here are three ways to start heading down that path.
1) Executive support It’s vital to have executive support. Every organization has some level of resistance to change, antibodies that attack new ideas introduced into the system. Trying to move away from the traditional methods of decision making (e.g. prior experience and gut feel) is bound to generate push back. But having executives who understand or have experienced the benefits of data analytics will go a long way to help. They would be the ones to provide the data analytics unit with ‘air cover’ and take the first steps in actually using the insights produced by the team. David Schaefer a former Business Intelligence architect at intel said the use of Business Intelligence tools didn’t really take off at intel until top executives started to say how really important it was to the company.
2) Engagement with Business It’s just as critical to have the right level of engagement and alignment with the business. Faith in data analytics tends to die when the data analytics unit or team has an overly academic as opposed to a commercial focus. This is when a lot of cool work goes on in the unit but not much of it is relevant to business operations or outcomes. To avoid situations like this, Cisco, LinkedIn and a few organizations we’ve worked with, assign and embed data scientists into each business unit. Doing this ensures that the data scientist’s work is properly aligned with the business. It also fosters a data driven mindset at the start of any project.
3) Small successes and quick wins It’s much easier to convince people when you present them with tangible success. You certainly need a long term strategy and an ambitious goal, but to get there, you need to pick up the momentum with smaller successes and quick wins. For organizations that have never taken a hard, rigorous look at their data, quick wins are usually easy to find. And success as they say, breeds success.