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Implementing a data driven culture

Steps to Creating a Data-Driven Culture


Data volumes are increasing at an exponential rate in many industries. This is being driven by the increased use of smart devices and connectivity to wired and wireless networks.

As data becomes more available and cheaper to collect the volumes grow. There may be useful value in the data, but you don't know unless you understand the data, its quality and whether it could be used for solving some of the companies problems.


It seems that having a data driven culture is the next big thing. But for many enterprises it will be elusive. So, why is it so difficult? Its likely that the biggest barriers aren't technological, but cultural. So where do we start?


My go-to model for any enterprise change has to be the Kotter eight stage process.

How you go about it will depend on multiple factors like, how big is your enterprise, its geographic locations, number of employees, systems and processes.

Ultimately the smaller is better as you can get to results far quicker.

Kotter, 8 Step Process of Creating Major Change


No matter how big or small the change is, this model provides a useful reminder of the steps we must take.


Before we start with we must identify the problem and its priority.

Now assuming that you need to build a data culture, lets think about each step in turn.


Step 1: Establish a sense of urgency.

Look at the problem and demonstrate:

  • What problems will having a data culture fix?

  • How will it change the way that you can serve your customers (both internal and external)?

  • How will it add value?


Step 2: Create a guiding coalition.

Data Culture starts at the top. If the executive team do not give it your support, your will have to work a lot harder to make it happen, or it may not happen at all.

  • Do you have an active Executive champion?

  • Do your supporters have the power to make the change?

  • How will the top team demonstrate their commitment?

Step 3: Develop a Vision for the strategy.

Paint a picture to describe the features, advantages and benefits of a data culture to the rest of the enterprise. Whats in it for them? e.g.

  • It will help them to develop new (useful and marketable skills)

  • It will reduce or eliminate some tasks that they may not like. Like cleaning data or manually integrating spreadsheets.

  • It will empower them by giving them the tools and processes to make better decisions, faster.

And don't forget there will be risks as well. If you are empowering the workforce, supervisors and managers may feel threatened. So consider how it will benefit each stakeholder group.


Step 4: Communicate the change vision.

This can not be emphasized enough. Communicate to all the stakeholder groups using all appropriate means at your disposal. Record the presentations so that anyone that misses them can catch up.


Step 5: Empower broad based action.

Identify the obstacles to improvement and remove them. Don't forget that different obstacles could result in different symptoms. Building a data culture is not just about data, but also, the people, process and tools.


Step 6: Generate some short term wins.

Have processes to fix basic issues quickly. If you a rolling out new technologies ensure that the supporting processes work well, like user account set up, permissions and identity and access management. Issues with basic problems will quickly erode any goodwill you have built and it will be harder to build it back up again.

Focus on doing a few things well and gradually increase the scope of the project in a controlled manner, one data set or capability at a time. Make proofs of concept simple and robust, not fancy and brittle. Remove risk from your implementation.


Step 7: Consolidate Gains and Build more change.

Build on the wins from Step 6 and expand. Be sure to communicate progress and publicize improvements to help



Step 8: Anchor New Approaches in the culture.

What artefacts exist that represent the old way of doing things? These could be processes, icons and images or even building structures, how can they be adapted or changed? Are there any monuments that need to be symbolically destroyed, removed or just quietly taken away?


The biggest challenges aren't technical, they are cultural. Getting the stakeholders on board and keeping them on board will determine your success.


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