Data Driven Organization – Why? What? and How?

Everyone today talks about DATA being the new oil so to speak. What does that mean to you? What does that mean to your organization? What does that mean to your customer? What does that mean to your partners? or for that matters what does that mean to anyone else?

Why be a DATA driven organization?

We have witnessed a seismic shift in how businesses outpace and outmaneuver the competition over the past few decades and most would agree that access to capital as the key driver of competitive strength.

With the advent of internet and digital revolution, access to talent became increasingly important—even more so than access to capital in many industries. This was the beginning of the KNOWLEDGE economy which was powered and accelerated by the whole concept of Digital Transformation which became mission-critical and required expertise and skills –  from leaders who could define the vision and purpose of change, to the engineers and technologists on the ground making it happen.

Today, the driving force behind the world’s most innovative companies isn’t only best-in-class talent (though it’s critical); the overwhelming force pushing high-growth companies forward is a mindset. Innovative companies depend on distributed decision-making, agile workflows, and fast-paced experimentation to win out over more traditional, wait-and-see peers. The “fail fast” mantra—once the domain of startups, now has made its way to even the most traditional industries. Fueling this agile mindset at the core and increasingly becoming a differentiator is DATA.

What is it to be a Digital Business and to be Data-driven?

It’s not surprising that too many don’t connect the two and don’t understand that it’s tightly intertwined to the extend you cannot have one without the other. Digital business is not about the cosmetics of having a mobile, social and web presence and a commerce platform. It’s all about stitching them together with DATA and most often than not these data will come from beyond the boundaries and realms of our own organization.

Also, when we start to employ a “data-driven” approach, it means that we make strategic choices and decisions based on interpretations via  data analytics. A data-driven approach enables us to further our objectives with more quantitative techniques rather than qualitative techniques as in the past. That means moving away from “GUT” to “ANALYTICS” in all spheres and across strategic, tactical and operational decisions.

How to become a DATA driven ORGANIZATION?

If we want to really institutionalize this then we must truly believe that DATA is the new oil and build a competency framework to use it. I thought the following might be useful though not exhaustive in helping you to establish data driven journey in your organization.

1. Start with the BUSINESS VALUE

We must ask what are the business opportunities or problems that we are trying to solve? What’s data driven approach required to solve this? What kind of date is required? What tools and skills do we need to solve same?

2. Walk the Talk

Ensure executive sponsorship & buy-in upfront and early in the journey. The more involved they are in the program and is identifying and enforcing same and allocating the necessary funds & resources the more successful the program will become in terms of adaption.

3. Treat DATA as your lifeline

DATA is the worst managed asset in any organization. If all of us believe that DATA is the new oil then we must manage that asset with much more due diligence than we do now. DATA governance must be institutionalized with much more rigour and vigour from cradle to grave in terms of data classification as well as life-cycle management.

4. Simplify & Standardize to SCALE

The ultimate goal is to create a 360 view by stitching data together- be it a customer, employee, partner, product, services, etc. Simplified, standardized set of  data definitions, data structures and data models will help drive an easier unification process to be able to leverage data better across the organization.

5. Iteratively IMPROVE

One cannot boil the ocean whilst when trying to adapt a DATA driven strategy for an organization. We must have a agile mindset to iteratively improve the quality of data, models as well as outcomes and hence a learning organization as a baseline culture to nurture it.

6. TALENT is key

Executing on the above needs the TALENT and that too with KNOWKEDGE which is relevant and deep. Attracting and retaining same will the biggest challenge to sustain business value of a DATA driven program in any organization.

7. Sustain VALUE through Coopetition

To sustain value you need to keep acquiring DATA to create better insights and hence there is a need to collaborate, co-innovate and cocreate whilst trying to maintain your edge. The need to cooperate and compete will become a phenomenon we need to live with as a eco-system thinking becomes pervasive and widely adapted.

The biggest barrier in creating a DATA driven organization isn’t technology, but it’s about creating the right culture and attracting the right talent. The shift in culture as well as general practice of making crucial decisions based GUT to that of it being DATA DRIVEN will be key in institutionalizing and making it mainstream with the mounting pressure to unlock value from data to stay relevant and meet stakeholder expectations, —from user analytics and pricing signals to competitor intelligence and AI-fueled predictive insights. Competitive strength in the next decade rests on building teams, technology, workflows, and culture inspired by data.

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