You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Every company needs to become a data company in order to survive. In our interview series, “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level,” I interviewed over 100 leaders and heard this trend on repeat. I also heard interesting insights around the challenges that companies face when making a shift to become more data-driven.
Don’t have time to read all 100 interviews? I’ve summarized the top two challenges and the top two solutions to becoming a more data-driven organization.
The Top Two Challenges
Company-Wide Data Literacy
You have a data team — great! But does your customer success team use data? How about your creative team? To be truly data-driven, every member of your organization should understand how to use data to make decisions within their role, and have some ability to do it themselves.
Traci Gusher, EY Americas Data and Analytics Leader, explained that upskilling needs to extend beyond your data team to your entire organization:
“There is a huge gap in data literacy within organizations. Much of the “upskilling” related to data has been within the IT organization and focused on technology versus data management, analytics techniques and data storytelling. For organizations to be truly data driven, they must increase the overall data literacy of the entire organization, not just in IT or dedicated analytics teams.”
“Successful organizations operate with a data- and insights-driven focus and a growth mindset and promote data literacy organization-wide. Without data literacy, the full potential of the data may not be utilized because people will not understand what the insights from the data are telling them.”
Investing in data-literacy doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know Python or SQL, but everyone should know the basics of data and how to ask data-minded questions. Kristopher Lazzaretti, Executive Vice President at FMCG Direct by Deluxe, shares more on this, saying:
“Data literacy does not mean that everyone in the company needs an advanced degree in statistics or econometrics. Basic elements of data literacy include understanding what data is, how it can be accurately collected and made ready for analysis, what common tools are used to understand, visualize and analyze data, where data can be misleading without the right guardrails, and what questions to ask when reviewing data and analytic outputs.”
Information Silos & Disorganization
The data engineering team keeps their data here, while the analytics team does their work there, and the leadership team needs the results in another place. Data is everywhere. The good news is, you’re leveraging data across your organization. The bad news is, when data is disorganized at scale, context breaks down and there’s no single source of truth.
Yaron Morgenstern, CEO at Glassbox shares the challenges of getting different departments on the same page:
“Most often, the resistance and challenge stems from departmental silos within the organization — different departments have different metrics and competing priorities- making it difficult for all departments to get on the same page. Finding a holistic data and analytics platform that serves as a single source of truth can help break down those silos.”
John Cheng, CEO at Baotris adds that disparate access and tools also create challenges:
“In my experience access to data, and tools to work with that data, are often the biggest hurdles for widespread data driven decision making in organizations. The rank and file want to make better decisions but the systems often have not been built out that enable that sort of collaboration”.
In addition to different teams using different tools and operating with different priorities is the issue of the access itself. Raanan Eran, the Founder and CEO of FORTVISION, addresses this point, saying:
“Some organizations are also wary of data privacy, so they do not grant their employees access to basic data. The problem here is that all employees need access to at least basic data, as without it they will not be able to offer valuable data-based insights. The best solution is using data collaboration tools with various levels of access or showing each department its relevant key metrics.”
The Top Two Solutions
Data Access & Understanding for All
Giving employees access to data, and providing resources for them to understand that data was the top solution that 100+ leaders shared in order to become a more data-driven organization.
To break down silos, Shama Hyder, Founder and CEO of Zen Media, advocates for more data-driven collaboration across technical and creative roles:
“Every team member should be informed about and understand the data relevant to the company and each of its clients. Don’t keep your teams in silos, and don’t separate more data-driven roles from creative roles. They should work together. When you allow data-driven collaboration, your team will be better equipped to create actionable strategies based on the available metrics.”
Santhosh Keshavan, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Voya Financial, Inc., also believes in empowering everyone with access to data, but reminds us that it’s important to keep data management more centralized:
“Cultivating a sense of understanding, ownership and empowerment about data in the businesses is essential to advancing and really accelerating business growth. Yet, while every business unit should own their data strategy, data management is an enterprise discipline. Creating a centralized data office will help elevate data strategies to the benefit of the company as a whole, while also creating frameworks and processes for the best management of the business data.”
Will Yang, who leads growth at Instrumentl, adds that showing is more powerful than telling, and that by educating more of your team to use data, they will see the benefits for themselves:
“I think the best way to solve this problem is by finding ways to get teams comfortable with understanding how the data works, why it matters, what it means for their business and how they can use it effectively. If you can show people how much better their lives will be when they are able to rely on data instead of their gut instinct, then you’ll find that they will be more open-minded about learning new things and changing their ways of doing things.”
Leverage your Leaders
Driving change requires leadership and trust. Leaders should talk about data often and repeat the message across all communication channels. If leaders set the expectations around data — and follow those expectations themselves — your team will follow suit.
Verl Allen, CEO of Claravine shares how the C-suite can be an example and provide an environment for success:
“Culture and strategy has to start at the C-suite. But in most cases, the higher up you go in an organization, the less trust in data you find. Leadership has to guide the company on ensuring data can be trusted, especially as it moves higher up in the org or across silos. At its genesis, that data may never have intended to be so cross-functional, so leadership has to provide the tools and paths to bring it all together for amplified value.”
Leveraging internal champions is another strategy that Nasim Khoshkhou, SVP, Analytics and Data at Synchrony has used:
“One route to success we’ve found is finding champions for data-driven decision making in the business and pairing their voices with ours. To have a General Manager, CMO, or Product Leader share how they leveraged analytics and data to drive better results for their portfolio or partner or take their product to the next level encourages others to ask for the same support. We also have to hire talent who is data fluent both inside and outside the analytics function to be able to connect the dots for various use cases. It’s the present and future of business, and we need to lean into it.”
In addition to walking the talk, leaders also need to invest in solutions that foster cross-functional collaboration. Ishaan Nerurkar, Founder & CEO at LeapYear, shares more on this, saying:
“Organizations need an optimal approach to liberate their data with technology solutions. Adopting these approaches will take leadership from executives to demand maximum value from data and intra-organizational collaboration with data, compliance and IT to rapidly adopt and scale the solutions.”
Get Your Team on the Same Page
Making the shift to becoming a more data-driven organization takes deliberate effort and time. Leaders across all industries and sizes agree on a few tips to help set you up for success:
- Treat data as a skill for all: Whether it’s providing training opportunities for your current employees or changing the way you hire, treating data as a respected and needed skill will more quickly get your team on the data train.
- Take a top-down approach: Lead by example and make data part of every conversation from the top. The more your leaders rely on data and less on gut instinct, the more likely your team will follow suit.
- Invest in technology that enables data-driven collaboration: Collaborative data platforms like Noteable can help make data a more transparent and collaborative experience by bringing together everyone in your organization on the same page. Break down silos and create an organized data experience by investing in technologies that enable data-driven work.