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Enabling a data driven culture

Enabling a data driven culture

How do you maximise value from your data and encourage your organisation to use it?

Image of Nick Whitfield

Partner, Data and Analytics

KPMG in the UK


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We have all read that “data is the lifeblood of our organisation” and that “we need to get our data sorted”. But, to get the value from your data, not only do you have to sort your data, you also need to persuade your organisation to use it. And this, I think, is the hardest part.

Every organisation – whether in response to regulatory pressure, a need to reduce cost, to increase operational control, to exploit new digital technologies, or to gain a commercial advantage – will be under pressure to improve how it manages and exploits its data. Often the focus is on preparing the data, making it “fit for purpose”. But too often the enormous challenge of shifting employee culture is overlooked, underpinned by the assumption that “if I deliver better information to Team X, they will use it”.

Sadly nothing could be further from the truth. Too many people at different levels in an organisation have a vested interest in the status quo. Whether they are those people who have spent years refining complex spreadsheets, or busy managers who are running to a stand-still – these people often don’t have the desire to engage with new information as it means changing what they do, which could be risky and challenging. The initial surge of interest in that newly developed information soon gets swallowed up under the weight of the status quo.

In a data driven organisation, there is an expectation that decisions will be fact based, that information is widely available and trusted. Decision makers at every level in the organisation have a natural curiosity and hunger for new and better information. Of course the right “supply-side capability” needs to be in place to fulfil that demand in a timely manner. But what about the “demand side”? The desire for information must come from the top of the business. Visible leadership and sustained investment in becoming a data led organisation is vital. But there also needs to be a well communicated process for identifying, collating and prioritising demand for new information; where people see their requests are being listened to, they are more likely to make them – and so a virtuous circle of improvement is created.

There are many actions which can be taken to create a more data driven culture, but a couple to start with might include:

  • Set the tone from the top. If senior management are seen to demand and use new and better information, that leadership will slowly pervade throughout the organisation.
  • Establish a common approach and governance framework for identifying and prioritising demand across your business, where there is a clear link between the requests which are approved and the commercial value they will deliver.
  • When designing information, make sure you define what decision or process you want to improve first, and make sure you are clear on how that decision or process will change once the new information has been developed. If you don’t set this out up front, you are unlikely to deliver the permanent change in the business which is required to deliver the improved performance. Then follow through relentlessly by ensuring the change is fully carried out.

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