These days, it’s hard to have a conversation without talking about data. It feels like overnight, data went from being a business buzzword to becoming a must-have for companies looking to grow and innovate. It’s a big topic with even bigger implications, and organizations today are facing pressure to use data as a way to stay competitive.
But today, simply “using” data isn’t enough. Tracking metrics like clicks and impressions is still important, but that’s considered child’s play compared to the more advanced ways that businesses have started to leverage data. Now, companies are striving towards a new major milestone – becoming a data-driven organization.
Data-driven organizations are reaping the benefits
So what does it actually mean to become a data-driven organization? That’s defined individually by companies depending on their goals and motives. For mid- to large-enterprises, data-driven generally means that every department within the company is using data to automate processes, evaluate results and inform decisions. For small businesses, it can look a lot a lot less structured.
And while you might be tired of hearing all this talk about data, research tells us that it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, several prominent industry reports have shown that companies that implement a data-driven strategy are seeing impressive business results.
According to Forrester, companies that have applied a robust data strategy across their organization are on track to earn $1.8 trillion by 2021, and those companies are growing at an average rate of over 30% each year. Similarly, Gartner predicts that 80% of organizations will develop advanced data literacy this year. This research goes to show that companies are harnessing the power of data to give their business a competitive advantage and increase their earnings potential.
You can’t become a data-driven organization overnight
Companies today are racing against the clock to employ an effective data strategy that can help them win more business and increase revenue. But one of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when it comes to data, is working too fast. To learn more about the process of becoming a data-driven organization, I spoke with Fabio Marastoni, a leading expert, to get his insights.
“From the outside, becoming a data-driven organization looks much easier than it actually is,” said Marastoni. “It’s easy to forget that creating a data strategy is a massive undertaking for a business. A true digital transformation takes time to develop and perfect. Rushing that process will end up being a waste of time and resources for the company. Building an effective data strategy has multiple pieces and many steps that need to be accounted for.”
Despite the increasing market pressure that companies are facing today, it’s important to take a step back and create a high-level plan of attack before diving into a data-driven strategy. Marastoni added, “We have to acknowledge that being data-driven is still an entirely new game, with a new set of rules, and both the organization and its employees are affected by it.”
Companies need the right culture to innovate
During my conversation with Marastoni, I asked him about the most important aspect of becoming a data-driven organization. We know that becoming a true data-driven company takes time, but as a marketer who relies on data, I was curious about what else business leaders should know before taking the plunge.
One of the biggest takeaways I received from Marastoni, was that companies need to make data part of their culture before they can truly become data-driven. “The single best piece of advice I can give to companies looking to implement a data-driven strategy is to make it part of the organizational culture,” said Marastoni. “Hiring a squad of data scientists doesn’t make you a data-driven company, nor does adopting the latest technologies. In a data-driven organization, every employee in every department is using data to make decisions, or they understand the data they are generating is being used in a decision process. They have to be on board with that vision from day one.”
Communication is key here. Business leaders need to communicate their vision clearly to the company, and explain the value behind the charge. Oversharing is actually a good thing in this situation. It’s important to explain to the employees what the company is trying to achieve with their data strategy, how it will affect employee’s roles, and set expectations. This might mean creating standards around what needs to be entered into CRM software, finance or HR software or understanding the key data points that must be collected from your email marketing software. At the same time, executives should encourage employees to share their ideas, concerns, and ask questions.
Prioritizing employee experience during a digital transformation
Marastoni also talked about the fact that business leaders can’t expect every employee to sign onto a new data strategy right away. In any organization, employees are using data at different levels. The IT department is probably very engrained in data, whereas the customer support team probably isn’t. It’s unrealistic to assume that every employee will align with a new strategy just because executives believe in it.”During a data transformation, business leaders shouldn’t try to convert everyone into a data scientist. The secret to success is to make data part of the employee experience,” said Marastoni. “Remember that this data strategy is going to be a big change for a majority of your employees. Grasping new processes and tools takes time and effort, not to mention that they’re learning a new system while managing other work. Make sure employees have the resources and the right processes in place to follow the data strategy with minimal disruptions to their existing workflow.”
When budgeting for a data transformation, companies should also consider forming a data analytics team who can oversee the project, especially in the early stages. Depending on the company’s unique needs and goals, this could be a task force of employees who are already familiar with data, or an entirely new department that would be in charge of various data analysis processes and tools for the organization.
“When you hire a team of data analytics professionals, it sends a message to employees that this new data strategy isn’t just a one-off vision from the CEO,” said Marastoni. “Having dedicated data analytics people in the organization shows employees that they have a reliable resource during the transition–a live person to answer questions, troubleshoot platforms and provide general support. That can make it seem a lot less intimidating”
The Bottom Line
Despite the push towards a more data-centric business landscape, a majority of companies haven’t actually implemented a strategy. NewVantage Partners’ 2019 Big Data and AI Executive Survey polled over 60 C-suite executives from large corporations, like Ford Motor and Johnson & Johnson. The findings showed that 72% of participants said data is not part of their culture, 69% don’t consider themselves a data-driven organization, and over 50% aren’t even treating data as a business asset. Clearly, there’s room for improvement.
If you’re thinking about implementing a data strategy in your organization, remember that a successful transformation puts employees and corporate culture at the center of the initiative. When everyone is working towards the same shared goal, it increases participation and inspires motivation. It takes the key elements –technology, people, strategy and processes – and blends them together to achieve a vision that helps the company grow.
As Fabio explained, digital transformations shouldn’t be taken lightly. Creating new processes and systems takes time and patience. Companies should make sure they have a strong foundation in place before moving forward with a data-driven strategy. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but once you get there, your company will grow in ways that you never imagined.