From data-driven decisions to corporate culture

Data analytics is more than just the analysis of facts and figures. It can be used as the basis for building a data culture that unleashes new forces in companies

By Henrik Jorgensen

Published: Mon 24 May 2021, 9:02 PM

Companies that increasingly rely on data analytics can make better decisions, and often see a positive change in culture too. A data culture interacts with changes in corporate culture and processes. This means a profound change in mentality and practice, makes data-driven decision-making the standard and ideal at all levels of a company. Such a transformation does not happen overnight, but in the long term, it benefits the entire company, especially during periods of change. Here are some of the advantages:

Openness and trust

Finding, analysing and interpreting the relevant insights in the vast amount of available data is not easy. Especially when the information is distributed over various departmental silos. Here, creating an environment of openness around data can help to break down these silos, because only by linking information from different sources in the business can new insights be gained. The free flow of data also fosters greater trust between departments. Suddenly teams and alliances are formed that were previously impossible because those involved did not see the possibilities. In this way, data unfolds a unifying effect and establishes a culture of sharing.

However, the new sharing culture should take place within the framework of a binding governance system that transparently defines data management and security. The introduction of data analytics is therefore often accompanied by an update of the IT security concept, from which in turn the entire company benefits.

Democracy through data

The transformation to a data-driven enterprise often starts in different places for different businesses - from the management board to individual departments. Data analysts might see the growing need to expand self-service analytics within the company, for example. Companies should see this as an opportunity. By empowering employees with data, they can act more independently, assume more responsibility, hierarchies become flatter, and decisions are made more democratically. In the long term, the entire company benefits from this, because traditional company processes are put to the test and often innovated.

Competent and independent employees

The user interfaces of most self-service platforms for data analytics are intuitive to understand. Nevertheless, training is an important component of a data culture. This also benefits employees who have had little to do with data in the past. Training helps to reduce fear of contact - even among employees who are generally reserved about digitization. Together with colleagues, they can share best practices or organise competitions in which they playfully implement the visual preparation of data sets. Here too, the benefits for the company go far beyond the training topic of data analytics. The company is becoming more digital, and employees dare to tackle new topics and tasks.

A data culture often helps bring together colleagues with others in the business that they did not even know before. For example, financial services provider Charles Schwab has an internal Analytics user group where more than 130 employees exchange dashboard tips or internal processes every month. The insurance and asset management group Swiss Life has set up a regular newsletter containing analyst tips and dashboard shows in which all employees can view examples from various departments. The software provider Red Hat has introduced extensive motivation and training programmes to accompany the introduction of a self-service solution. The number of platform users grew from an initial 50 to more than 4,500 in the first year. A living data culture enhances the skills of the workforce and promotes knowledge transfer.

Reaching your goal faster

Self-Service Business Intelligence avoids detours and waiting times. If employees no longer need to trigger tickets in the IT department to obtain data but have direct access instead, they can work with data records more spontaneously and with more open results. This creates new freedom and responsibilities, and employees can react more quickly, for example in customer care, KPI and budget control or campaigns. In meetings or discussions with superiors, questions can be answered with just a few mouse clicks.

The new independence, which is part of a consistently lived data culture, must however be explicitly desired and encouraged by corporate management. To do so, it must send out clear signals to motivate employees to behave autonomously and flexibly.

Open to new ideas

A successfully introduced data culture fires up long-term strategic planning in the company. Data-supported decision-making processes change the DNA of a company: structures are reorganised, business goals are redefined, new business areas, distribution channels or partnerships open up. Real-time data analysis allows increasingly precise forecasts via AI and predictive analytics. In some industries, this is becoming a decisive competitive factor. Data analytics offers inexhaustible opportunities to ask questions about the business, culture and future of the company. If you take the answers seriously - you have correctly understood the idea of data culture and its ability to recognise and help shape change.

New Age Finance and Accounting Summit took place on May 17-18. Top industry leaders shared their invaluable insights on how can organisations prepare for any future uncertainty, where do the growth opportunities lie, and how CFOs can play a critical role in influencing business resilience and change.

Henrik Jorgensen is the Country Manager at Tableau Software

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