Business Analytics

November 15, 2016

The Four Step Approach to Building a Data Driven Culture

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Competitive advantage can be realized through the adoption of a data-driven culture. This article will explain what a data-driven culture is and the approach an organization should consider in its adoption.  Core to the approach is embracing the concept that data is a highly valuable asset and can be used to optimize the ways in which a business operates.

Core Components of a Data-Driven Culture

Leadership should consider this construct of a data-driven culture

Data-Driven Culture

Enabling Organizations to Compete and Succeed

Data as an Asset

Data is an asset with much intrinsic value and should be viewed on par with other organizational assets such as property, equipment, intellectual property, etc.

Unlocking or unleashing organizational efficiency can be found in through a businesses’ data and too often that data is hidden in silos.

Empowering People

For a successful data-driven culture to be instilled and for successful business intelligence analytics projects to be deployed, it needs to start at the top of the organization and for that mindset to permeate throughout the business – from the executive suite through entry level staff.

Business leaders must make key decision regarding data governance. In particular, accessing data (permissions) and establishing an environment where the sharing of data is encouraged.

Data Volume and Velocity

The velocity at which data is being collected is increasing at incredible rates.  A recent study indicated that every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003. Also, approximately 90 percent of all the data in the world was created in the past two years!

Organizations are becoming saturated with rich data.  Even though data may be pervasive throughout an organization, the valuable insights that may be unlocked from it often cannot be accessed because the data has not been compiled, analyzed or shared.

A Culture Based on Data Sharing

One factor that can prohibit a data-driven culture is individuals within an organization becoming territorial over “their” data. A calcified mindset may persist where data sharing is perceived as a threat to or a reduction of a person’s value within a team. This siloed or protected approach to data must be overcome to adopt a data-driven culture.

The Four Step Approach

There are four essential steps that are foundational to building a data-driven culture:

  1. Centralize and organize data. Organizations have an incredible amount of information but it’s often spread out, siloed and disconnected. Data resides in Excel spreadsheets or on an individual’s computer. It sits in custom databases. It’s in an organization’s main ERP or their operational software. Data may be on-premise or in the cloud. It is essential to stitch data together in a centralized and organized manner.
  2. Encourage data sharing. Organizations must often overcome a culture of not wanting to share data. As the saying goes, data is knowledge and knowledge is power. Individuals often cling to this perceived center of power. Organizations must instill confidence in their people that job security is not dependent on the amount of information that they “hoard.”  Perceptions that people are “entitled to their data” must be addressed head-on.
  3. Establish data integrity. Perhaps the biggest issue that can derail a business analytics projects is real or perceived lack of data integrity. Trust is essential. It can take an incredible amount of time to build trust and it can be lost in a second if data is improperly prepared, segmented, or organized and incorrectly informs decision making. Put simply, people need to be able to trust the reliability of the data upon which decisions will be made upon.
  4. Adopt a self-serve and data-driven work process. Data must be accessible to team members in a form and place where they easily access it and are not required to learn a how to program or navigate overly complicated systems. Learning curves must be shortened and a “self-serve analytics” attitude needs to pervade the organization. Access to data should be available anytime, anywhere regardless of device. Proper permissions must be administered and maintained.

Benefits vs. Costs

A data-driven organization embraces the mantra that in order to improve business results they must ensure their team has access to the data it needs.  Benefits to this approach include:

  • Real time data – Organizations cannot wait for a system to batch out or close out. Processes need to occur in real-time and data should available almost instantly.
  • Connect data to people – with the end goal of improving business results and optimizing business processes. For example, improving efficiency in the warehouse, enhancing relationships with customers, or driving down the cost of vendor relationships all by equipping individuals within the organization with relevant, meaningful data.
  • Data becomes a currency – and the ability to collect it, analyze it and leverage it effectively will be a key differentiating factor to be more competitive.

Core to a data-driven culture is the presence of a solid, contemporary business analytics platform that aggregates, shares and optimizes a business around its data. The decision to invest in a business analytics platform is far more cost efficient than sourcing individual components or developing your own from scratch. Costs then are transferred from administration (a cost center) to action (a profit center) Today’s economics call for seeking a best of breed solution vs. attempting to architect, build and maintain a proprietary, in-house approach.


Many organizations are entrenched with day to day operational necessities. The thought of evaluating and adopting a data-driven culture may tend to be viewed in the “not now” or “nice to have” categories. However, there are risks to this prioritization.  A recent survey of CIOs and CTOs showed that the number one issue on their radar screen is business analytics and intelligence.

Why is that the case?

The most successful businesses have realized that data is an asset and can be one of the most powerful tools in its efforts to be increasingly competitive. Ignoring this business reality makes an organization susceptible to its competitors that are making data-driven business decisions and are better positioned to take real time action.

By not fully embracing data-driven culture, an organization stands to lose its competitive edge in the marketplace. This might not occur immediately. It might not occur tomorrow, but it will occur in the future. Competitors which adopt a data-centered approach may be able to make faster and wiser decisions and gain a competitive edge.

Another, typically overlooked, risk is staff retention. Successful organizations are characterized by great people, and great people are attractive to great organizations. Talented, motivated, and driven individuals need to be equipped with powerful. Organizations should give its people the ability to make decisions, so they feel like they’re making a difference, they’re contributing to the organization and they’re being resourceful.  If that’s not the case, they may decide to join an organization that does adopt this philosophy. Data access – especially to the younger generation of workers – can positively impact employee satisfaction and resourcefulness.

Actions to Consider

Organizations must acknowledge that they are all using business analytics – even if it’s “just” an Excel spreadsheet. But what level of business analytics is necessary? Key questions to ask and assess:

  • What information is important to us? Is it available? Is it reliable?
  • How do employees currently access data?
  • Is data accessible on mobile devices?
  • What do you want to (or need to) do with your data?
  • What business questions could by leveraging my data?
  • How might we envision the ways in which data could transform our business?

About Jacob Specht

Jacob is the BT Partners’ DOMO Practice Lead. He is focuses on delivering business management and data visualization solutions. You can contact Jacob at (847) 418-8167 or

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