While companies across all industries are increasingly recognising the importance of data for driving decision making and strategic planning, many are still struggling to put that into practice. According to one major annual survey of C-level executives, the percentage of those questioned who believe they have "established a data culture" was just 19%, and only 26% believe they have "created a data-driven organisation".

Somewhat worryingly, this is the tenth year of this particular survey, and that 26% doesn't represent a steady rise. In fact, over the years of the survey the percentage of data-driven organisations has gone down.

While there are clearly many factors at play that might be holding back the data revolution, the respondents to this particular survey overwhelmingly pointed to culture as the key factor that was holding them back: just 9% of respondents identified technology as the key impediment, the other 91% placed the blame squarely on culture, people and process issues.

So Why is Data Culture Still Such a Tough Challenge to Crack?

It's hardly surprising that cultural change takes time, particularly for large organisations and those that have been in operation for many years.

As we wrote in our previous post, the impetus for developing a data culture has to be driven from the top: if senior management are not fully onboard then there is no chance of it taking hold throughout the organisation. But it is important that rhetoric is backed by action. That means that the leadership team must not only demonstrate their own commitment to making decisions based on data, but also continually highlight and celebrate data success throughout the organisation. It also means encouraging and rewarding data-driven decision making by hiring and promoting those who practice it.

However, while the attitude and actions of company leadership clearly plays a key role, the culture will not automatically trickle down through the organisation organically. It also needs to be nurtured and supported at the grassroots level.

For example, that might mean implementing a strong specialised training program to upskill team members and reinforce the benefits of being data-driven. This needs to be a continual process, rather than a one off exercise, and importantly should be delivered at the right time and optimised to developing data skills that employees can put into practice in their day-to-day roles, rather than abstract training that employees can't implement and which is quickly forgotten as those teams return to old ways of working.

Another important strategy is not to try to do everything at once. It is always better to start small and scale up. A good place to start is by identifying a small data project that can be implemented into production relatively quickly. That might be a small data set that can be extracted from the source and delivered to end users via a simple dashboard. As a proof of concept that demonstrates value, it can be a very useful tool for evangelising the benefits of data, and once you have the foundation in place you can continue to build on the platform to add capability.

The Right Tools for the Job

Of course, while the challenges are primarily cultural, it doesn't hurt to make sure that you have the best tools for job available to your team. That's where solutions like MotionBoard, our advanced business intelligence dashboard, and Dr Sum, our high-performance data warehouse platform can help. We have helped organisations all over the world to open up data across their business. Tools like MotionBoard allow you to build flexible dashboards that open up data to the wider organisation to accelerate decision making.

Want to know more? Let's talk.

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Matt Armstrong

View posts by Matt Armstrong
With over two decades' experience in the technology industry, Matt is WingArc Australia's manager of marketing and communications.
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