Building a data culture to accelerate digital transformation

Ask any business leader for their 2019 business and technology priorities, and no doubt you will hear about strategic plans to become more data-driven, as well as sweeping digital transformation initiatives to ensure data is better utilised across the organisation; while that’s all well and good, it doesn’t necessarily mean their employees on board building a data culture which is really pushing their business beyond the competition.

A data culture is, simply, when everyone in the company is switched on to the potential of data. They use it, understand its potential and its limits, and know that data enables rather than blocks progress. For a data culture to thrive, data must be ingrained in the company DNA, applied in the very corner of the organisation, with employees empowered by and encouraged to act on data.

Building a data culture needs to be a crucial part of the digital transformation process. By instilling a shared value, attitude, and competency towards data across the organisation, it can aid and accelerate the implementation of strategies and technologies necessary for successful digital transformation. But how do you develop a data culture robust enough to deliver those benefits?

Building a data culture

Good leadership, training, talent, and support are the biggest drivers for shifting culture. But the turning point in building a data culture that’s great only comes when employees at every level of the business understand that data can improve the business. Regardless of their position in the company, everyone needs to buy into building a data culture and understand how and why it will make their lives easier.

It might be difficult to be switched on to a data-first approach if, for example, you’re a cleaner of office buildings. However, imagine a member of the facilities management team comes to you with real-time, dynamic data that reveals where the greatest footfall is, at varying times of the day, as well as rooms or even entire floors where there’s next to no traffic for days at a time. Armed with this up-to-date data every morning, you now have the visibility and insights needed to alter or even reduce your workload, making you more efficient and productive.

Likewise, showing employees across all departments — from finance and HR, to marketing — how data prioritisation, analysis, and use will free them from performing the more mundane repetitive tasks on their daily to-do lists, and make them smarter and better at their jobs, is essential to a thriving data-driven organisation.

Turning your data culture into transformation

Having a well-considered strategy is essential for organisations in their digital transformation journey. A clear strategy that lays out answers to the key questions (who, what, when, where, why, and how) should create a positive and transparent environment for a data-first organisation to thrive. But many don’t always consider how employees will accept the impact and influence of the organisation’s data culture across the organisation.

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There needs to be a consideration for the effect of the new strategy on different teams and workers. Everyone needs to understand why the company is implementing the data strategy and why now, how this data new strategy will help them individually progress as well as improve the business as a whole, and what training and support will be offered to facilitate their personal success and make the plan more than just a written manifesto.

In its development, the data strategy must look at the broad strokes of the decision to undertake digital transformation and the importance of building a data culture within that, but also address important data security and privacy questions too. How will data be collected and stored? Who will be able to access the data and what permissions will others have? Deciding how transparent to make new processes is also important and consideration has to be given for how progress will be communicated, how feedback will be gathered, and how further changes will be initiated.

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It’s no surprise that an underlying technology infrastructure to support the strategy and employees is paramount. Important information must be integrated from numerous applications and data sources, both on-premises and in the cloud. Analytic tools must be in place with insights accessible to a wide range of users via intuitive, visual dashboards. And new technologies like machine learning must be employed to accelerate processes, decisions, and results. In today’s fast-moving landscape, enterprises require modern technologies that are simple and easy to use while also being powerful, secure, and enterprise-grade.

Data culture and digital transformation are complementary processes, with the former accelerating the latter. Building a data culture before undergoing digital transformation, rather than during, ensures buy-in from employees from the very beginning of that process, and facilitates swift execution out of the gates. If organisational leaders don’t invest the time to make this happen, their digital transformation progress may be slow to take off.

Written by Craig Stewart, SVP of Products, SnapLogic

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