If you’ve read various stories such as The Economist article, “Data, data everywhere”and the MIT Sloan Management Review special report, “Analytics: The Widening Divide,”or possibly McKinsey Global Institute’s report, “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity,” they’ve likely piqued your curiosity. By now, you may be looking for a better understanding around the importance of data collection – and beyond just collecting the data, how incorporating analytics into your decision making can give you a competitive advantage.

But how do you incorporate these themes into the way you do business?

To build a data driven culture, you don’t just need to change your own habits about engaging with information; you need to gradually insert the focus on data into your company culture. Companies like Amazon and Netflix were built based on this core competency. They believed and rightly so, that understanding their customers at the deepest levels would provide them with more meaningful ways of engaging with them.

So, how does one approach shifting the culture around analytics?

To be data driven an organization needs to incorporate data in decision making – and not only when the data confirms your opinions, but especially when it shows that your initial gut assumptions are off. Having a data-driven culture also means prioritizing decision making around data-oriented outcomes. Most importantly, it means starting a dialogue, from the CEO down to the individual contributor, around key performance indicators (KPIs), targets, and measurements. Finally, to have a data-driven culture, it is imperative that data collection takes place effectively, which we will touch on in a later blog post.

Don’t get me wrong, blind data worship is no better than blind data ignorance, but making the leap from “I can’t know” to “I don’t know…yet” is a huge step in the right direction. As Galileo said, “Count what is countable, measure what is measurable, and what is not measurable, make measurable.”[1]

While seemingly complex, the beginning of creating a data-driven culture can be simple:

  1. Collect data. Get the tools in place to capture information about your products and services, standardize data collection, and evangelize for data quality and completeness. Start small if you must and focus on one area, product, or service. This step is imperative for the success of the following steps.
  2. Share the findings. Show your organization the power of simple data insight through common methods such as dashboards, time series analysis, and segmentation analysis.
  3. Reward: Create fair and straightforward empirically-derived goals and success metrics. Establish line of sight between analysis and decision making informed by data.

Once these practices are in place, you are ready for the next step – predictive analysis and modeling future outcomes. At this point, your organization should be much more comfortable with copious data collection and insight-based decision making. People no longer ask “should we measure this?” but instead focus on “how should we measure this?”

Remember changing a company can take time. However, by taking these steps, you’ll be moving toward the creation of a data-driven culture.

Ivan Sucharski

 



[1] Quoted in Wilfred J. Kaydos, Operational Performance Measurement (1998), 20