On the face of it, most companies ‘get’ the importance of data. For instance, eight in ten businesses say data is one of their most valuable assets, a vital step on the way to becoming a data-enabled organisation. However, organisations are also losing up to 20% of their revenues due to poor data quality.
Such disparities suggest data-enablement strategies may be unaligned, unoptimised, or even hint at more serious cultural issues at play behind the scenes. Whatever the reason, it means any business must question if it is genuinely ‘data-enabled’ – or is actually setting itself up for failure in the future.
It’s why we’ve created this list of the five characteristics adopted by companies that are masters of their data. Our aim? To help you understand if your organisation is on the right track – and if not, what practical steps you can take to create a successful formula:
1. Know your data
That might sound counterintuitive but without the right data strategy, your organisation risks suffering at the hands of that well-worn adage: Garbage in, garbage out. Data-wise, incoming ‘garbage’ includes duplications, errors, wrong-headed data analysis, and other roadblocks to true enablement.
Data-smart companies understand that to collect, collate, and exploit data successfully requires the right systems, processes, and people to make it happen. Get it right and you create a data infrastructure that breeds trust because it produces quantifiable ‘wins’.
To achieve success, a holistic approach is required that covers the whole gamut from the technical through to your employees. Technical considerations include identifying the right platform for centralised data storage and analysis such as a competent CRM; introducing automated data entry to remove duplications and errors; full integration of every app and endpoint; and more. As for your people, think employee training programmes that de-mystify data, quash bad data practise, and breed genuine curiosity (see below).
2. change your instincts
When we make business decisions, we typically rely on existing intelligence, meetings (so many meetings), and our ‘gut instinct’ that’s often based on years of experience. While these are important, data-enabled organisations always put data insights first to ensure they arrive at the right answer – even if the results challenge established thinking, processes, instincts, and opinions.
Failing to embrace data fully risks creating a decision-making process that is ‘insular’. And that’s a serious issue, one that American entrepreneur James Love Barksdale summed up perfectly when he said: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
By adopting a data-driven approach, organisations create ‘instincts’ based on data first and foremost. This massively improves the quality and speed of decision making across all areas of business whether it’s uncovering new growth opportunities, identifying potential issues, or increasing efficiency in-company and across supply chains. All this while managing customers more effectively to increase sales and secure loyalty in the long term.
3. Make decisions at speed
Making informed decisions is of course crucial, but in this fast-moving business world, making them at speed is just as important. A data-enabled company with the right data infrastructure benefits from data-driven insights often delivered in real-time, not at the end of the week, month, or even quarter. This immediacy ensures the company can react quickly and efficiently to emerging issues, evolving customer needs, and fast-moving trends within its sector.
Such a proactive approach also pays dividends. For instance, businesses that are fast at addressing inefficiency and ineffectiveness within their organisations benefit from 16% higher gross annual profits, according to a Vanson Bourne/orgvue survey.
4. Encourage curiosity
According to research conducted by the Harvard Business School, an issue often impacting negatively on successful data use is the belief that allowing workforces to be curious about data introduces unnecessary risk. However, data-enabled companies take the opposite view.
They know actively encouraging employee curiosity to explore data’s potential is an ideal way to enhance an existing data strategy as well as identify and quickly introduce new data-focused functionality and services. Combined, this keeps the data-enabled organisation competitive and just as important, ‘democratises’ data across the entire company.
Such an approach is already working for Airbnb, which created its Data University to democratise data: “[This] is unique since organisations offering data education typically focus just on their technical employees,” explains Airbnb. “We believe [though] that every person at Airbnb should and can utilise data in his/her role to make better decisions.”
5. Create a learning culture
As Airbnb has shown, the beating heart of any data-enabled company is not its technology but its people. While advocacy from the board is vital for executing a successful data strategy, it’s attaining buy-in from employees that matters most. However, staff are often wary of data, viewing it as a ‘maths’ issue requiring specialist analytical skills.
By deploying the right training though, data-enabled companies empower employees to develop solutions using low-code/no-code platforms to unearth their own data insights. This leads to a motivated, data-confident workforce that is more willing to learn new skills and abilities. In effect, it represents a ‘virtuous circle’ where employees develop an appetite to learn – not only to better the company’s performance and productivity – but to also better their own personal development.
“92% [of organisations] credited curious people with bringing new ideas into teams and organisations and viewed curiosity as a catalyst for job satisfaction, motivation, innovation, and high performance.”
The findings of a Harvard Business Survey conducted by behavioural scientist Francesca Gino.
How to unlock a workforce’s data potential
While workforces are often open to developing new skills (with the right training in place), getting buy-in from across the entire company can be challenging. Achieving it requires a genuine human touch to deliver the smoother, more meaningful transition needed for a successful cultural shift.
A good data skills learning provider can help by aiding business leaders develop the literacy and mindset required to create and run a data-centric company. Likewise, the provider can roll out certified learning programmes for employees so they gain the analytical skills required to unlock the company’s full data potential.
Ultimately, this inclusive approach gives the organisation – and its people – the confidence, abilities, and culture it needs to become a truly data-enabled company. One that is open-minded, agile, and flexible enough to be able to ask the right questions and receive the right answers from its data every time.
Do you want to become a data-enabled organisation? Talk to us about our data mindset and skillset programmes to learn more.