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How to develop a ‘data culture’ in your company

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Research conducted by BiSurvey, a leading research firm, found it that 91% of companies believe data-driven decision-making is important to their business. This shouldn’t surprise you; we all strive to have the best information before making choices in our business or personal lives. How many hours have we all spent Amazon reviews of the best television?

What is surprising, however, is the data culture adopted by many leading companies. A lack of structured data management means that valuable information, which is often readily available in stored data, slips through the cracks.

Avalanche data

Companies have developed very successful ways to obtain data. Every day we fill out forms and click on options that leave a handy nugget for a smart company to learn about our habits. This tendency to collect has led to a situation where, in the coming years, global data creation is projected grow to over 180 zettabytes (one trillion gigabytes). To visualize this, if every gigabyte in a zettabyte were one meter, it could span the distance of the world’s longest river, the Amazon (4,345 miles), more than 150,000 times.

Having data is one thing. The problems start when it comes to storing, organizing and understanding them. What happens if that data is kept in multiple different sets? What happens when data is extracted and reported in different places? The answer is an erosion of trust in the system, multiple versions of the truth and worse results for the company.

My job is to help companies clean up the mess and create a data culture that helps rather than hinders. Through my work with many companies in different industries, I believe there are some fundamental truths that can help solve the problem. I call it the data journey and I love to take you on a journey.

The data journey

I recently worked at a leading health, fitness and leisure company dealing with all of the issues described above. They used a mix of different internal systems for business performance reporting, all of which yielded different numbers and made it extremely difficult to make management decisions. Their reporting was largely static and there was a high demand for ad hoc data extracts from the business intelligence team so that users could create their own reporting in Microsoft Excel. As with many companies, this off-system analysis created multiple versions of the truth, creating mistrust in the data.

This company, like many others, had to go on a data journey.

1. Understanding the problem

It is imperative that the journey begins with a clear understanding of the problem, looking at governance processes, organizational structure, and technologies in the context of data and information to get a holistic view of where improvements can be made. By basing and then regularly measuring the maturity of the organization’s data, progress can be seen and learning can be adopted.

2. Create a road map

You always need a map to get to the right destination. This is a combination of tactical and strategic plans for every part of the company. Regular signage ensures that you don’t go in the wrong direction.

3. Get a buy-in on top

To stretch the travel analogy to the breaking point, it is important to have support from the ship’s captain (higher leaders). To make the project a success, data specialists need to have an ongoing, informed conversation with key decision-makers and those leading data initiatives across the company. Not only this, but everyone in the company needs to adopt the data culture mindset in order for it to be applied successfully.

4. Stay on track

Ultimately, developing a data strategy that puts data at the heart of an organization requires education and change, all of which take time and effort. While it is not easy to undertake the journey, the rewards are great. Data is an integral part of the effective and smooth operation of any organization. To make the most of data, businesses and governments need to build a data culture through a range of reliable and easy-to-use data-driven solutions that stem from a clear data strategy and roadmap.

It is clear that data is an important part of our entire lives today. But for businesses to use this data to deliver value and purpose, a solid data culture must be embraced. Organizations that nurture a collaborative, data-driven culture will ultimately see this result in a competitive advantage in today’s challenging business environment.

Jonathan Scott is Regional Director of Cloud Solutions for Hitachi Solutions Europe.

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