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5 Characteristics of a Truly Data-Driven Company Culture

There’s a huge difference between having data and using it to drive business outcomes. While having the right tools to analyze data is certainly one piece of the puzzle, a data-driven company culture (or lack thereof) is what often determines how useful those data findings become.

Many companies inadvertently fall into the trap of focusing more on the tools they’re deploying than the culture supporting that tech — and this imbalance is part of the reason many enterprises are still experiencing adoption rates much lower than they’d hoped.

Here are five characteristics of a truly data-driven company culture.

#1: Leaders Demonstrate Their Buy-in
As one Forbes expert notes, executive buy-in and support [1] has a powerful effect on how the rest of the company approaches data. A C-suite leader can get up on stage at an all-hands meeting and talk about the importance of data until the cows come home, but you can bet employees will notice if this leader’s actions contradict their words.

Leaders must lead by example. It sounds simple, but ensuring this is the case from the very top down to the heads of departments and smaller teams will help foster an actually data-driven culture. Leaders paying lip service to the power of analytics without demonstrating how they’re actually using it can actually have the opposite effect.

#2: Data Is Accessible & Embedded into Existing Workflows
Employees and partners need easy access to data insights on an ad hoc basis. Thankfully, the latest wave of data democratization empowers non-technical users to pull data insights on their own — no more waiting for reports to get passed down from the IT team.

Embedded analytics takes this idea even farther [2], infusing existing workflows with data analytics tools and visualizations. This helps employees get on the same page quickly and access search- and AI-driven analytics whenever they need from within the portals and applications to which they’re already accustomed.

Data becomes more integral to culture when it’s both accessible and front-and-center from the employee’s perspective.

#3: There Is Strong, Centralized Governance in Place
Centralized governance protects data from misuse and ensures a single source of truth for all users. This, in turn helps employees trust data insights. Make sure everyone knows their role in governing data and that your platform supports features like granular permission controls. The focus here is giving people access to what they need — no more, no less.

#4: There Is a Consistent “Data Language”
People have different degrees of experience and comfort with data. Company culture needs to account for the fact people are starting from different points. Developing a consistent companywide language helps employees know how to talk about and analyze data.

Transforming Data with Intelligence (TDWI) suggests companies need to actively promote data literacy [3] — or “the ability to read, work, analyze and argue with data” — citing the example of Airbnb, who doubled employee engagement on its data platform after launching a data education series for every employee regardless of role. People tend to feel more comfortable and empowered working with data when they have a solid baseline understanding of how to work with it. Offering data literacy training and creating a glossary of metrics are two great places to begin.

#5: Data Insights Actively Influence Business Decisions
Data insights must actively influence business decisions. As Tech Crunch writes [4], “Finally, all those amazing data analyses must be put into the hands of data-trusting managers to affect decision making.”

All of the budgetary investment, time and effort will be for naught if something prevents data insights from genuinely driving business outcomes. Hurdles to acting on data insights may include a manager who prefers to “go with their gut,” unopened reports or legacy tech making it difficult for employees to access, let alone share, their findings.

A truly data-driven company will have leaders who buy into their data strategy, centralized governance, companywide data literacy, accessible data in existing workflows and the power for data insights to become actionable decisions.