August 10, 2022
7 min read

What does a data-driven organisation look like?

Consider this a checklist of items that you can probe within your organisation to check whether you are data-driven or not. These are the same questions that we use to scope out where a business is along its data journey. 

Do you have the people capable of making change?

Change doesn’t happen without the right people. Because data is a constantly evolving landscape, unlike, say, finance or law, you need people capable of making good decisions. Not only that, they need the power to act on those decisions and drive change. 

By the way, we have made a form for you here, so you can run these questions past your organisation internally.

Key questions

  • Do you have a chief data officer?
  • Do you have a dedicated data team?
  • Is there a data budget, and if so, who wields it?

The path forward for a data driven organisation

First of all, when it comes to ‘throwing people at a problem’, a great quote is “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes”. Carl Jung said that about the philosophy of finding your ‘inner self’, but we can apply the exact quote to organisations around the globe. You likely have people within your business capable of seeing issues. Give them the power! Make them feel great about their role. Give power and a budget to those who lead data initiatives and make your company run better. Let everyone know they have a budget, and let everyone know they have the power to make change. That’s a significant first step.

Is data democratisation key?

Data-driven organisations are ones where everyone in an organisation has access to data right at their fingertips. A culture that allows for data exploration can only be fostered when getting data is intuitive and hassle-free without the need to rope in your ‘specialised data team’ or your IT department. The more friction you have in your data process, the further you are from a data panacea.

Key questions

  • How easy is it for you to get the data you want to make decisions?
  • How usable is the software that allows you to interpret and understand data?
  • Have you ever been frustrated with the time it takes to generate reports or insights, either by people or technology?

The path forward for a data driven organisation 

The best way to increase data democratisation is by centralising your data, having intuitive technologies, and training/change management. In that order. Suppose you haven’t centralised your data yet. In that case, people are picking and analysing from different sources - that’s a terrible thing for trust and correctness - all things you need in a democracy! 

Secondly, if the tech is unusable, slow or unintuitive, people won’t use it. If you’ve centralised your data and the tech is excellent, then it’s your job to show your staff how to use it! Once you get most folks on board, you’ll see data being used all across your organisation.

Is data proficiency a core skill?

For anyone to skillfully analyse data in their job, they must be data proficient. It’s not just having the right skills but also the inclination towards making data-driven decisions instead of going by instinct or gut feeling alone. Organisations with a thriving data culture hire people with the right skills and aptitude to make data-driven decisions, help employees develop their analytics skills through training, show-and-tell sessions, and other activities.

Key Questions:

  • Do you feel like you’ve increased your data skills since joining the organisation?
  • Do you feel like you have colleagues that are ready to support you with data problems?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking data-related questions to non-IT and non-data people?

And, as a company:

  • Do you ask interview questions about data for non-data roles?
  • Do you have regular continual personal development for your staff?

The path forward for a data driven organisation

Get a trainer to come in and teach some data proficiency. Show people how being data proficient will help them in day-to-day life. Send out a poll internally - “Who knows how to use a vlookup?”. Those are the people you should nurture and cherish - you need at least one of them in each deportment. Tell them to jot down the people that ask them the most questions. Those are the people that should go directly on their training list. These are significant first steps to building a data culture - get people excited about it.

Do your people trust data?

You can have the shiniest technology, the most fantastic change management programme and the most well-oiled data engine whirring away in your analytical systems. Ultimately, if the people using it don’t trust what comes out the other end, it’s a bust. We’ve had countless conversations with clients confiding in us that their QBRs are a mess of tantrums between departments quarrelling over what specific KPIs mean.

If you don’t have a singular source of truth of what data means - a data dictionary, if you will, then you’ll always have these problems.

Key questions

  • How much trust do you have in the data you work with?
  • How much do you trust the data that your colleagues present you?
  • Do you feel comfortable making decisions based on data that’s presented to you?

The path forward

Centralisation, centralisation, centralisation. People need to know they’re singing from the same hymn sheet. If marketing is getting metrics from x, and sales from y, then ‘revenue’ will have two different meanings. Each metric needs to have a descriptive title, all centralised in a ‘data dictionary’. Create your data dictionary, find out what people need to have visualised, and always keep referring to your dictionary. Ingrain it in people's minds.

Data being seen as an asset

The most forward-thinking companies treat data as a strategic asset everyone has to manage. When it comes to managing money, that’s not just the CFO’s problem. It’s everyone’s job to use the company’s resources effectively. Same thing with attracting, retaining, and developing people—that’s not just HR’s problem; it’s everyone’s. This also needs to happen to data. 

Your excel sheet isn’t your data, it’s the companies, so it’s in your best interest to ensure everyone can strategically plan around what you’re doing. 

I’m going to explain this through a very extended metaphor.

Everyone gets a slice of the (figurative) pie, which means everyone has to contribute the ingredients. Marketing brings the eggs, sales the flour, and the data team are the cooks that bring it all together to ensure the cake is the best it can be.

If it tastes weird, then that’s no issue; the sales team know how to recognise that they accidentally brought wholegrain flour, not plain. Customer success knows that the apples they provided may not suit the specific style of pie they’re baking. We iterate fast, and everyone knows they’re in control of the pie.

Key questions

  • Is there anyone to feed back data problems to?
  • Do you and your colleagues often think about how you could be doing data better?
  • Do you have any public APIs so that clients or consumers can use your internal data?
  • Do you monetise any of your data?

The path forward

The path forward here is a hard one. It’s a mindset change, and you can’t just click your fingers 👆 and make people think differently. No. What you can do, though, is action everything above this point, and people will eventually get on board.

Executives care.

This is key. The people that wield the largest levers must buy in to data culture. The organisation looks up to these people. If they don’t care about how the company does data as much as it is recruiting or selling, it’s a bust. There needs to be visibility, and it all starts at the top.

Key questions

  • Do you think the decisions that executives make are data-driven?
  • Do you think that the c-suite puts enough emphasis on making sure you have the right tools to make the right decisions?

The path forward

If they don’t already, make them care. Show them stories of how data can be leveraged to help hire, to help sell, and to help market. 

You must convince them that data isn’t a means to an end; it’s the coals that not only help keep the fire burning but to help it burn brighter and hotter. It’s the advice that stops someone from dumping an ice bucket over the flames. It’s the bellows that ensure the flames don’t die. Once the exects understand that and put the money to where their mouths are, you’re onto a winner.

If you’d like us to help you execute data in a sustainable, modern way. Please, reach out. We’d love to know all about your challenges. 

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