In today’s digital world, all companies have to have data at the centre of their culture to grow and survive. But for many, it can be hard to know where to start. Marcos Monteiro, Co-Founder, Veezoo, looks at the five steps companies should take to create a data culture.
1. Lead from the front
Often initiatives and values can be viewed as something for the ‘team’ to do with senior management not always following suit. Yet when it comes to creating a data-driven culture, those at the top must embrace it as much as all employees are expected to. This requires the organisation’s leaders to focus on using facts and figures to demonstrate to the whole team the importance of making decisions based on data rather than just on instinct or experience.
So whenever you’re communicating something new or a change to the company, use data to illustrate why that decision has been made. This shows that senior management is using data in the same way they expect the wider team to. It also helps illustrate why data is crucial in informing decision making.
What often holds organisations back from an open data culture is the fear of exposing underperformance or issues within the organisation to employees and shareholders. Being humble and admitting that you got things wrong creates a transparent environment where constant learning and evaluating becomes normal.
2. Data is a commodity and needs to be treated as such
To get the most of the data, you need to have the relevant datasets and sources working together to get the full picture. This requires having a data infrastructure in place that pulls in the company data and syncs with each department to provide a complete overview of the whole business. For example, it’s no good asking ‘What was the best seller last month’ if you don’t consider the likes of ad spends on certain products.
Therefore, this requires investment both in infrastructure and in implementing data quality processes and governance to ensure accuracy, integrity, and security of the realms of data the company generates daily.
This isn’t something that will happen overnight, nor will it generate an ROI for some time. It requires commitment and buy-in from all departments to build this asset. You need to frame data as a collective good rather than just benefit the most obvious teams like sales and finance.
3. Your data is only as good as the tools you work with
Traditionally large databases are complex and can only work efficiently if supported by good processes and systems, especially when it comes to human-generated data such as CRM.
Tools like CRM require a lot of input into all the fields, and they become overwhelming and time-consuming and inevitably end up being avoided or skipped. The trouble is if you put useless information in, you get useless information out.
Limit the amount of data required to be filled out and automate the rest using the right RPA tools. This reduces the time spent on data entry significantly and increases its quality. Ultimately the best way to get team members to use data entry to its optimum is for them to see the benefit it has to their role and success.
4. Select key metrics carefully and ensure everything aligns to the business objectives
Two main issues hold a business back from success.
The first is that the wrong metrics create wrong incentives. So it’s common to see a business focus purely on maximising short-term profit and stock price rather than long-term growth, which inevitably stalls as R&D fails to produce new products. You can then be left in a situation where the C-suite cash out their inflated stock and leave. This approach can be seen company-wide, such as a salesperson focused on selling non-strategic products because it feels easier. This approach means focusing on the customer’s long term needs falls at the wayside, creating short term relationships, and discourages an environment that fosters ideas and innovation based on buyers’ feedback.
Worse than choosing the wrong measurement is not doing it all. Failure to have metrics in place can be devastating to employees’ motivation who want to see tangible results to drive them forward.
Therefore it’s crucial to appreciate that metrics aren’t straightforward and that they may require a bespoke approach that you shouldn’t shy away from. However, they will ultimately benefit the company and keep team members motivated and engaged.
5. Data for everyone
To start with, data in business was often limited to senior management, who would typically use it in a financial sense. But technology meant that data had so much more to offer, especially when it went real-time and could monitor inventory and resource planning. So today, organisations monitor everything from every email to who is visiting the website and how. And although the huge amount of data is undoubtedly valuable – it’s only going to be so if you can make sure everyone has access to it.
What you want to be aiming for is a culture that encourages people to make better and faster decisions that work towards the company’s objectives. In the fast-paced business, world departments need real-time information to help them make informed choices that will help them address any challenges. For example, the marketing team wants to know what products require a boost to hit monthly targets.
The challenge here is not necessarily educating the team on why the data is valuable but rather making it accessible. So you need to invest in platforms that provide users with a simple way to obtain information and digest it. That was our main motivation when founding Veezoo, providing users with a google style search conversation mechanic to enable this.
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As you can see, creating a data-centric culture isn’t going to happen overnight, but don’t let that put you off. The long term benefits far outweigh the initial time and financial investment to get the data at the heart of your company.