Instilling data-centricity through the right company culture

How well an organisation puts its data into action defines its success in the hyper digital economy. For all its business benefits, however, data is growing in volume – sourced from a vast array of silos and endpoints – and can create internal obstacles which can hamper productivity if left in its raw state. A single source of truth can be harder to attain if a complex cloud environment results in siloed departments. 

In our survey, nearly 40% of data professionals admit they don’t fully grasp how data is being used in their organisations. Compounding the issue, 44% find it hard to manage the diversity of data they are dealing with. All factors considered, data professionals are facing more barriers to making data available in a state that is useful for analytics than they used to. 

It goes to show that, even for those businesses with the right tools for extracting, transforming and loading data, a strong foundation must support the process if it is to be truly effective. This foundation comes in the form of an internal data culture that is felt and appreciated across the organisation. The management of data and metadata embedded within a business needs to be communicated in a way for employees to effectively understand and use data in their roles. 

It ultimately comes down to how data is turned into something employees can use – including those belonging to the less technical parts of the business, not solely the traditional data team. All departments should be encouraged to buy into modern data architecture: the kind that uses the latest technologies and aims to empower business users to make the most of the data they already have at their disposal.

Leaders can take three actionable steps to nurture a strong data culture in their business. First, they should create a common language across teams to prevent misunderstandings. Then, they should make clear to all teams the impact data can have on the business’ bottom line. Finally, leaders should showcase the value that users, beyond the IT team, get from using data. Let me explain how this process can help to unleash the power of data for all.

All teams on the same page

Regardless of which roles team members have within an organisation, it is essential to have a shared understanding of where data comes from and how it is being used. Having a centralised data catalogue accessible to anyone across the business helps democratise these trusted datasets and extend their reach further, especially when a significant amount of employees are using such datasets on a regular basis. With this in mind, the first step to developing a data-centric mindset is to switch from a process-oriented mentality to a data-oriented mentality. 

This is a step change focused on prioritising data over operations while at the same time granting teams access to data that will improve their decision-making. It is important to make a proactive effort to explain to employees how data-centricity will impact their roles and why it is important to use data from multiple, trusted sources. 

Growing and maintaining the data hype

The idea of ‘data culture’ helps to dismiss the myth that only data professionals, those that manage the demand for refined data, can handle and understand it. This mindset is particularly unhelpful given the skills shortage affecting data roles – relying solely on them for data production will inevitably create bottlenecks. 

In fact, most roles (if not all) within a business can generate and act on useful information in their own way. For example, a marketing executive can be interested in audience behaviour insights, as it will amplify team efforts, as well as meet customer needs more closely and deliver tailored experiences. 

However, it will always remain the senior leadership team’s duty to take more optimal, data-driven choices that will have a measurable impact. Generative AI is already helping to inform this; summarising, categorising and presenting data so the decision maker can be more informed and productive.

Increasing visibility on the impact data can have and how it can help teams level-up their work is an easy way of raising awareness within the organisation. Business leaders can do so by openly talking about how data analytics is adding great value to all points of the value chain, not just reporting teams. 

Delivering informed business decisions

From making processes more cost-efficient through to hastening fulfilment times, data can be the source of real positive impacts for customers. However, its biggest advantage for companies is the ability to inform decisions that are based on evidence, rather than just the instinct of a small group. It has been proven that companies that adopt this model are much more likely to gain a competitive advantage. 

Dealing with different data sources is quite complex and it can be detrimental to productivity and the speed at which data moves within a company. But it’s not the only overwhelming process: think about how teams feel when it comes to meeting their deliverables too. The smallest breakdown in the value chain caused by resource pressure can have knock-on repercussions on the bottom line. 

Teams can prioritise different items for the end user and work more efficiently if they learn to do so in smaller increments. Minor improvements in the process might seem trivial, but even the slightest change can help provide enhanced value to customers, plus it can also show what an organisation can achieve. All of this adds to wider company efforts to build a cohesive data-driven culture.

Shifting to a strong data culture

In a bid to make their own data more useful and usable, organisations should first focus on their own team. The whole company has to buy into the idea, plus have an overall understanding of the benefits data can bring to overcome barriers in communication and start appreciating the advantages it can unlock. 

Teams don’t automatically become more productive just because their company has migrated to the cloud. In addition to updating the software and hardware and integrating tech into a business, there has to be a mindset change of how businesses think about data. Shifts in data culture and literacy have to be prioritised too. Increasing business value by implementing a data-centric culture is a collaborative effort.

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Ed Thompson is Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder of Matillion, the Data Productivity Cloud. Along with CEO Matthew Scullion, he launched Matillion in 2011 and set about building a crack team of data integration experts and software engineers. He started his career as an IBM software consultant, and spent 11 years consulting for some of the premier blue-chip companies in the UK.

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