Does a strong data culture drive performance?

Digital transformation programmes have and continue to be the prime focus for organisations of all shapes and size. The impact of COVID-19 has meant those who have yet to put their digital plans into action are desperately playing catch-up, as they look to mitigate the effects of continued disruption while maintaining operational efficiency.

Akin to digital transformation initiatives, creating a data culture or becoming data literate should be among the top priorities for organisations. Interestingly, these aspirations have very little to do with IT, they are a group effort and require the input of everyone within a business.

Terms such as data culture and data literacy have been growing in use in recent years, for good reason. Every organisation uses data – whether it’s a huge multinational with thousands of employees or the local florist, data and the information it provides is instrumental in delivering success. In addition, digital transformation isn’t an overnight process either, commanding considerable resources in both time and money.

We know data is all around us and effective use of that data is vital, the challenge for an organisation however is encouraging everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet. This means whichever colleague from whichever department has the same understanding and appreciation of data, delivering benefits across the board.

These claims can be substantiated too, studies from Gartner, McKinsey and SSRN demonstrate the numerous benefits that arise from being data literate or fostering a strong data culture.

A statistic from a recent survey by Qlik, suggests failing to put employees at the heart of data strategy costs organisations an eye watering £10billion in lost productivity each year. This means organisations are too focussed on the tools and implementation, instead of the people that will generate a return on investment through data and using the associated systems.

How can an organisation foster a strong data culture?

As you might expect, it’s not an overnight process but an ongoing journey – drawing parallels with digital transformation initiatives in that regard.

The first step is to identify whether there’s a problem and conduct a data assessment. It’s likely that business leaders won’t see there’s an issue, particularly with something as hazy as data use – if it works, there can’t be problem? Of course, because a problem isn’t immediately known doesn’t mean it’s not there. We at VIQTOR DAVIS have seen first-hand the stark differences between a data literate company and the alternative, with benefits such as operational efficiencies favouring the data literate.

A collective data vision is a pre-requisite too, useful for conjuring images of a data utopia and securing the all-important investment. If the business or its people aren’t bothered about data, this presents a problem. The message should come from the top alongside an investment in people, for example training or education. Being data literate isn’t just for IT people, quite the opposite in fact – data literacy is vital to everyone outside of the IT department, irrespective of role, department, age or gender. The adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast," sums it up perfectly.

Organisations have a real opportunity to dramatically improve their overall data use and efficiency by engaging with their people typically thought unrelated to data. In addition, once colleagues realise the sheer wealth of benefits that stem from being data literate, it’s much easier to encourage wider buy-in. Internal training and development also benefit as colleagues can support each other should there be gaps in their knowledge, in a sense perpetuating data literacy throughout the business.

Lastly, data isn’t boring – although it might initially appear somewhat dry. Data can be as fun as it is interesting and there are no limits to just how useful it is. Take football for example, putting the impact of COVID-19 aside, it’s far more fun since the introduction of complementary data, such as in-depth statistics and figures. Data has made the beautiful game easier to understand and a more enjoyable spectacle overall, which is no mean feat!

So what…?

The gist is simple.

Digital transformation is business critical but it’s costly and a time vortex of sorts, which means there are significant risks attached. The technical delivery of a project is only half of the job, any corners cut with systems and processes post-completion can put the entire programme in jeopardy.

Being data literate and fostering a strong data culture is guaranteed to pay dividends across every department within a business. Digital transformation projects reach new heights and deliver a far greater return on investment when in the hands of data literate colleagues. Think about it – it’s just about the most effective investment an organisation can make.

If you’re interested in learning more about the options surrounding data literacy, get in touch with our resident expert and data literacy evangelist Mel Hodge.

Are you a business leader who would like to learn more about becoming data literate? Join us for our upcoming and exclusive virtual roundtable - Save the Data: Literacy, the only thing that makes sense in 2021.

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