Big data should now be a core competency for everyone in your organization. While it’s easy to brush it off as an IT-only concern, it’s much more than that: the rise of big data is pervasive, and we have more information from more sources coming faster than ever. In fact, a McKinsey Global Institute report says data volume doubles every three years, and we now have tools that let us learn from and react to data in real time.
This data management, generation, and application cannot be viewed simply as a function of IT. The IT team may enable its use, but data as a core competency is necessary across your business.
Too many organizations struggle to unlock the value of their data—not because they don’t have the tools to use it, but because they haven’t made the cultural changes to support being a data-driven company. If a CEO announces, “We’re going to be a data-driven company,” what actions follow that statement? That commitment must be reflected in the strategic and operational goals of the company, and this is often where the disconnect occurs. The right words are spoken, but actions aren’t paired with them.
One of the first steps in changing business culture is to move away from gut-feel or bias-driven decisions. The redirection from bias-driven to data-driven decision making has a payoff: the McKinsey study says sectors such as U.S. retail, U.S. healthcare, and manufacturing have captured only 10 to 40 percent of the value found in their data and analytics. Obviously, there’s room for improvement. Companies that can drive those percentages up will benefit from increased revenue and profitability.
As the ones closest to the technology, IT teams often see the possibilities big data offers but struggle to persuade business leaders of the value. They find themselves serving as data evangelists who sit between management and lines of business. If you find your IT team in this position, what role can you play in driving your organization toward a better understanding of big data and its value? Here are a few steps you can take to help with this transition.
Sometimes business leaders don’t grasp the whole picture. Review the top three-to-five business initiatives at your company, and find the data story within them. How can data-driven decisions move those initiatives forward? What revenue and profitability improvements could data-driven decisions lead to? What percentage of available data has been captured, and then used to drive improvements? If more could be captured and analyzed, what would the business impact be? These may not be easy questions to answer, but they put the value of data into business terms, making it easier for business leaders to visualize the possibilities.
Business leaders need to understand that the ownership of data and its value rests in their hands, and that they must take an active leadership role. They can’t remain on the sidelines, criticizing implementation but taking no part in the process.
There are likely pockets of data heroes inside your company. Marketing and sales teams often embrace data-driven decisions and analysis tools, so those departments may be the first place to look. Ask them to be champions and evangelists to other departments by touting their successes using big data. Enlist their help so it becomes a true movement within your organization. It’s important to make sure it’s not about ego, but about the entire business becoming more successful.
The proof is in the doing. Help business leaders find small but strategic projects that can generate results within six to eight weeks. After the first success, choose another project that can build on that success. Focus on delivering results to the business, and use small, quick wins as the impetus for using data to drive larger, longer-term projects.
If you want more tips for becoming a data-driven enterprise, check out this e-book.