Why is culture important when building a data strategy?

Education and building a team culture are critical facets of any successful business initiative – and building a data strategy is no exception.

Providing the right tools and training enables a new way of thinking, which in turn leads to a more successful data strategy execution. Here’s why.

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

It’s a quote from Peter Drucker, one of the most influential thinkers in management, and what it boils down to is this: no matter what business strategy you try to implement with your team, its success and efficacy are going to be informed by organizational culture.

If the people driving the strategy aren't passionate about culture building or the business, the plan is doomed from the outset. This is because any new initiative – data strategy included – is made or broken by people in the organization. Without the right foundation, teams will lack the knowledge and/or motivation to see a strategy come to life and develop a well-oiled operational machine.data strategy culture building

Building a culture to support a data-informed strategy

For data-informed or data-driven initiatives to be successful, proper change management practices and plans should be put in place before the strategy is rolled out to the team. This means:

  • Adoption of initiatives should be top-down – C-suite staff and senior management have a responsibility to practice what they preach and lead by example (i.e. follow all data strategy initiatives from day one and be willing to provide guidance when it’s needed).
  • Champions should be identified – Who is well placed within the business to help make the strategy a reality, and what resources do they need to be successful? Identify “champions” on-the-ground and encourage them to foster a shift in thinking across teams.
  • Incentives should be put in place – Introduce monetary and/or non-monetary incentives to motivate people to work towards the new data approach, and adopt data-informed or data-driven decision-making processes into their day-to-day work.
  • Formal training and education should be offered – Educate team members by offering opportunities to upskill and learn about data management and data science to help drive both organizational success and employee-level success.
  • Don’t rely on finding “unicorns” – Introducing a new data-informed strategy doesn’t necessarily mean having to hire whole new teams or let people go. You can drive huge gains past the status quo by simply hiring good people and providing the right training opportunities – especially if your competition is only hiring “OK” people.

With these points in mind, change management and cultural shifts should be just as much a part of your plan as the data-informed or data-driven strategy itself. Arming your staff with the right incentives, tools, support, and knowledge gives you the best chance of implementing a successful long-term strategy with data and sound decision-making at the heart of your business.

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