Nicola Askham | 13th July, 2023

Data culture is the collective behaviours and beliefs of people who value, practice and encourage the use of data to improve decision-making. As a result, data is woven into the operations, mindset and identity of an organisation. A data culture equips everyone in an organisation with the insights they need to be truly data-driven.

However, developing a data-driven culture requires a comprehensive approach that involves training and education, infrastructure and tools, organisational support, and a continuous emphasis on data-driven decision-making and learning from a senior level all the way through the ranks.

But, whilst establishing a data-driven culture can seem challenging if a company is able to achieve it, the benefits are huge. A strong data culture can lead to better insights, improved decision-making, innovation, and a competitive advantage for organisations.

The difference between data culture and data governance

Maintaining an effective, shared data culture can feel like a balancing act between control, compliance, and data access. As data ownership rightfully moves from the exclusive hands of IT into lines of business, companies struggle to implement and enforce organisation-wide policies that balance data access with control and compliance.

Data governance is an important part of data culture because it provides the framework for organisations to balance the need for data control and the necessity of removing gatekeepers to enable data democratisation and expedite the broad use of data. But data culture itself is a far larger initiative, touching every aspect of business life and every employee and data user.

What are the key components of a data culture?

The key components of a data-driven culture are:

Data Literacy: This refers to the ability of an organisation’s workforce to read, understand, and interpret data. A data-literate workforce is essential to building a data-driven culture.

Data-Driven Decision Making: A data-driven culture is one where decisions are made based on data insights rather than intuition or assumptions. Data-driven decision-making ensures that decisions are based on facts, not opinions.

Accessible Data: Data should be available to everyone who needs it in the organisation. This includes ensuring that data is stored in a centralised location and that employees have the necessary tools and training to access and use it effectively.

Data Quality: Data quality is crucial to the success of a data culture. To ensure that data is accurate and reliable, organisations must establish standards for data collection, processing, and storage.

Continuous Learning: A data culture requires a commitment to continuous learning and improvement. This includes ongoing training and education for employees on the latest data tools, techniques, and best practices.

Collaboration: Collaboration is essential to building a data culture. This includes sharing data insights across teams and departments, breaking down silos, and encouraging a culture of transparency and open communication.

Accountability: An effective data culture requires accountability. This includes establishing clear goals and metrics, tracking progress, and holding employees and teams accountable for achieving their objectives.

By incorporating these key components into their values, beliefs, and practices, organizations can build a strong data culture that supports data-driven decision-making and helps drive business success.

Benefits of a strong data culture

In an increasingly complex data landscape, a lack of data literacy, due to skills gaps or an inconsistent understanding of data across the organisation, has thrown data access and control out of balance. This is characterised by either data gatekeeping with too many restrictions hampering the use of data, or a data free-for-all with too much access threatening data quality and compliance. Either situation leads to widespread frustration across the organisation.

A strong data culture is the solution to all these problems. With a common understanding of the meaning, importance, and applications of data, the entire organisation is positioned to get the most from its biggest asset

How do you create a data culture?

There is no doubt that creating a data-driven culture is a challenge. There is no single answer or magic solution, but a successful strategy for culture change takes all the various stakeholders into account, understanding their needs and where they fall in the rollout.

When it comes to data, culture change starts with the data team, IT leaders, and the chief data officer (CDO). They need to establish the organisation-wide data strategy necessary to balance appropriate control of the data with data access that will support the business.

With a common set of expectations, a common language for data across the organisation, and a shared emphasis on the importance of data for business decisions, it’s easy for the rest of the business to follow suit.

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Here more from Nicola at our Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence & Analytics Conference Europe 2023.

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