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Data-first Culture
Digital transformation

Building a Data-First Culture for Digital Transformation

Data-first Culture

Most of the organizations, these days, are making efforts to tap into the potential value that comes from digital business transformation. Ask any business leader about their 2020 priorities, and you’ll hear about their strategic plans for transforming digitally. However, stats reveal that over 70% of organizations either have a digital transformation strategy for their business or are working on one. Further, only 7% have implemented their digital transformation strategy completely.

A significant question that arises here is why organizations fail to achieve the desired results despite having a digital transformation strategy? Because there is a misconception about what digital transformation is. It is often different than what is being done. It is a lot more than just ‘being more digital’.

According to Rob Roy, Chief digital officer at Sprint,

Digital transformation is not about digitizing a channel or adopting more digital things. It is about working with each area in the business to help everyone think & act digitally for the things they are responsible for. It is about improving and simplifying customer “moments of truth” and all the supporting processes that build a true omnichannel to deliver world-class experience.

Therefore, digital transformation is about coming up with a business plan, which is more thoughtful and based on data and actual use cases. It is about one of the most crucial aspects which organizations often forget, I.e. a DATA CULTURE. Digital transformation is about promoting a data-first mindset.

But why data is so vital for businesses in their digital transformation journey?

Why Data-First Culture? 

Your Business Is Not About You; It’s About Those Who You Serve.

For every business to succeed, it is important that they serve customers to their utmost satisfaction. For this, organizations need to understand their customers’ behavior to produce products and services just like the way they need. Here’s where a data-first culture comes into play. Focusing on data that helps understand user behavior such as age, current carrier, location, and demographics can help organizations better understand their customers’ journey across the web.

Netflix is an excellent example of being a successful data-driven organization. Founded in 1997, Netflix exceeded Walt Disney Co. in 2018 as the number one media company in the United States by market value. By digitizing interaction with its 151 million subscribers, Netflix collects data from each of its customers to understand their behavior and watching patterns. Using this information, Netflix is able to recommend TV shows and movies customized as per the subscriber’s interest and choices. By offering the subscribers what they want, Netflix frees its users from searching endlessly through content streams to find out their favorite TV shows and movies. Hence, instituting a data-first culture helps Netflix make its viewers’ job easier, giving them a better and customized viewer experience.

So, having a data-first culture can prove significant for businesses in their digital transformation process by helping them:

  1. Get a deeper understanding of the target audience
  2. Make Better Decisions
  3. Increase Efficiency of Resource Allocation
  4. Early Problem Detection
  5. Empower Employees to Manage themselves with Confidence

How To build a Data-First Culture? 

Data First Culture Post Image

A data-driven culture can’t be manufactured or purchased; it must be cultivated and developed.

While companies have realized the importance of fostering a data-first culture, cultivating such an environment hasn’t been easy. A stat from the Gartner report reveals, “While 80% of CEOs claim to have operationalized the notion of data as an asset, only 10% say that their company actually treats it that way.” While organizations depend upon data for their day-to-day business operations, they fail to treat it like a strategic asset, in reality. Another study published by NewVantage Partners says, “The main challenges to becoming data-first were people (62.5%) and process (30.0%) and not technology (only 7.5%).”

So, where does the problem lie?

Well, if organizations want to build a data-driven culture, they should first align their business strategy with the collected and organized data and ensure that data quality is maintained throughout. Also, since a data-first culture can only be developed and not manufactured using any technology, organizations need to take a more holistic approach for cultivating a data-first culture.

Hence, organizations must focus on four main pillars of nurturing a data-first environment. These pillars can be considered as a significant framework to determine or analyze potential gaps organizations may have in their overall data strategy.

1. Change the MINDSET 

One of the hardest roadblocks in fostering a data-first culture is shifting the collective mindset of your team to embrace data. In an attempt to steer your workforce in a new direction, you should focus on:

  • Implement the powerful method of leading by example. Your leaders should first believe in using data, and then you can expect your team to adapt to such a mindset.
  • Generating quick wins can help your team experience the tangible benefits of using data, which will help grow the data-first momentum with each win.
  • Experimenting with new ideas, make mistakes, and repeat. With each iteration, you will inculcate the discipline of relying on data for decision making and innovate quickly.

2. Reinforce the SKILLSET 

To nurture a data-first culture, your team should have specific data-related knowledge and expertise to work with an abundance of data. While hiring new talent with such expertise can be one way, it will lead to the wastage of the knowledge and skills of your existing talent. Hence, you should focus on these key areas to boost your employees’ data skills:

  • Provide basic training to your employees on how to read and understand the data.
  • Train your team on data storytelling to help them learn how to combine data and communicate key insights in the data to others.
  • Build a strong team of analysts comprising of people who are skillful enough to help others become more data-savvy.


3. Enhance the TOOLSET 

Nurturing a data-first culture based on a variety of data tools and systems can actually be a hindrance rather than a help. Companies should focus on the following aspects to ensure they have a strong technology foundation for a data-first culture:

  • Establishing a common data language that everyone embraces and adopts.
  • Democratize the data to more members can empower your team to leverage data on a more regular basis and free up your data scientists and analysts to focus more on strategic tasks.
  • Automating labor-intensive tasks to free up your people so that they can add value to your business in more productive ways.
  • Integrating your analytics tool into your existing processes or systems to make them even more powerful.

4. Strengthen the DATASET 

Ensure the data you collect is useful, relevant, and trusted by the people of your organization. To achieve this, you should focus on the following aspects:

  • Define and communicate clearly the core priorities of your organization. Your data and analytics tools should be closely tied with your business strategy to generate significant output.
  • Maintain data governance without overshadowing your team’s ability to create value with the data.
  • Ensure your data privacy is maintained and the data is used securely. It is important to help your team understand the roles they play in securing data and other digital assets.

How Businesses Should Leverage Human Assets? 

According to research conducted by Intellyx, using machine data in the context of business operations can be difficult. Using data to improve the quality of your human assets is what makes machine learning so important. You want to reduce redundant routine activities through automation and enable your employees to be more productive and effective. To get the most out of machine learning in your workplace, you need to audit your organizational data, understand business processes and examine how technology can enable digital transformation. Empowering employees with the right customer information using data also enables them to have better customer interactions. But there is also a need to acknowledge the fact that not all existing human resources are capable of handling big data and modern technology. It is up to you as an employer to empower them with the right skills. Skills training programs for existing employees as well as hiring new talent to handle all data management processes are important within an organization. The first step towards digital transformation is to have a robust digital transformation network.

How Employees Should Help Drive Digital Transformation? 

It is up to the organization to empower its employees with the machine data needed to bring in a digital transformation. Employees on the other hand should focus on improving customer experiences with the data they have in hand. They should focus on using the data in a way that adds value to customers. Most hindrances to digital business transformation occur due to the inability to leverage data. Machine data is capable of offering inputs about customers which includes a customer’s expectations or behaviors. The company culture needs to match the customer culture in order to be successful with its digital transformation framework.


The Takeaway

Establishing a data-first culture is a time-taking process and demands patience and constant efforts. To unlock its powers, companies should accurately understand data right from collecting tons of data to refining it. However, challenges are inevitable, wherein your people being the most difficult aspect. As James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, authors of the Flight of the Buffalo, said, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” Focusing on the pillars discussed above can give you a clear direction for establishing a data-first culture. This is exactly what we do to transform your business digitally at Softobiz.


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