Becoming a Truly Data Driven Organization

    Business Strategy & Perspectives

“Data driven companies are…….19 times more likely to be profitable.”

You may already consider your organization to be “data driven,” but have you really considered what this means? There are several components that go into the development and execution of an overall data program. Often I come across organizations that consider themselves data driven simply because they purchased a BI tool and extracted some operational data into a data mart. To me, this is a bit like buying a hammer and then considering yourself a homebuilder.

And why all the fuss about being data driven anyway? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, your company is 19 times more likely to be profitable if you are data driven. Nineteen times! That’s a significant data point. If using data to effectively drive your company’s direction contributes so significantly to profitability, why aren’t more companies doing a better job of it?

Many elements contribute to the development of an impactful business analytics program. In this blog, we’ll look at two critical bookend factors, which if not addressed, can negatively impact you at the project level.

Accurately and fully understand your business requirements.
Your business users are probably pretty smart and manage the business effectively. They probably also think they know what they want from a business intelligence solution. But they don’t know what they don’t know. They think in terms of what they already know, they don’t dream about a better way. This is especially true for business users who are new to using BI and analytics. This lack of knowledge leaves a big hole that will head a project in the wrong direction. Defining the right business requirements for your BI project is the most critical step in your process. All the subsequent project phases build off of them. A small misstep means bigger missteps later — after you’ve designed, developed and implemented your system, only to discover that you are missing something, maybe several somethings.

These gaps in requirements gathering happen for several reasons:

  • The business issues are not fully understood
  • The data collected is insufficient to make well informed decisions
  • Business users lack the knowledge needed to define the business requirements
  • You just don’t know what you don’t know

Working with qualified consultants who can help you with the business requirements process is critical. They can help you flesh out the right set of requirements. In fact, good consultants should challenge your assumptions. This will ensure you’re developing the best system to match your business needs. If you feel like you are being pushed too much by your consulting company, it’s a good thing! They are actually looking out for your best interests.

Ensure your organization’s ability to effectively use the deployed system.
So, now you’ve deployed your new BI system. You’ve captured the data, cleaned it up and made it accessible to the organization. The business users have what they need to get their job done more effectively. At this point, you’ve become a data driven company, right? Well, hold your horses.

I’ve seen this issue across a number of technologies in my career: people tend to equate the ‘solution’ with the technology, when in fact the solution is much broader than that. The solution needs to be more holistic. It needs to include more than just a new piece of technology that allows access to data; it needs to include the human element.

As your company makes the transition to a data driven company, you need to bring your staff along with you. You need to:

  • Provide education and mentoring for those who have always done their job the old way, and now need to work in a much more analytical world
  • Help others begin to use data for the first time in their job
  • Start looking differently at the resumes of those you are hiring
  • Affect the culture of the company so that your staff, when possible, will justify the decisions they make based on the data

Your employees will be your knowledge workers of the future, but they haven’t worked like this in the past. A transition plan needs to take place. Technology changes rapidly, but people…not so much. One without the other is almost pointless; hence, organizations need to provide training, mentoring, decision-making skills, governance councils and more to make this transition effective and fruitful.

Conquering these two critical steps will put you a long way towards the goal of being a true data driven organization.