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How to Foster a Data-Driven Culture

Acquia and Mediacurrent give 8 keys for creating a data-driven culture across your entire organization and investing in a first-party data strategy.

Note: A version of this blog was originally published to mediacurrent.com and has been updated here with permission.

There’s a lot of buzz around data. Leadership wants to know what’s impacting revenue, marketers want to know where to invest their marketing budget, and sales wants to know where qualified leads are coming from. We all strive for reliable data, but it takes alignment across the entire organization to get it optimized. To become a data-driven organization, all departments need to make data the center of decision-making.

The Importance of Culture

In a survey of business intelligence professionals this year, data-driven culture was identified by survey respondents as the third most important trend, rising from fifth place in 2019. If you spend time in the world of data, you’re going to continue to hear about this. 

8 Keys to Becoming Data-Driven

A data-driven culture is important for so many reasons. The value of data has to be understood by employees at every level to invest appropriately into the execution of the strategy, to leverage the data to inform business decisions and drive long-term customer loyalty.  Here are some key considerations to help foster a data-driven culture at your organization.

  1. Invest in a first-party data strategy:
    Investing in a first-party data strategy and achieving a golden customer record powering insight and action across your business is essential to build community and drive engagement and customer loyalty.
  2. Leadership buy-in and alignment
    The end goal is to get all team members to see the benefits of being a data-driven organization but if leadership isn’t supporting and incorporating data into their decision-making, then all of the effort becomes pointless. Leadership needs to steer the way by encouraging, and giving everyone the resources they need, to make data a priority. 
  3. Quality data
    Many organizations are faced with less than ideal data - perhaps it’s inaccurate or maybe just incomplete or siloed. Identifying and filling those gaps is difficult but must be overcome. Before your organization takes the leap to base decisions on data, you need to achieve a rationalized and cleansed customer record across all of your organization. Solutions like a customer data platform that cleanses, standardizes and dedupes all of your data and reconciles customer identifiers via tools like identity resolution will provide confidence that you’re all working off a single source of truth. 
  4. Accessible by all
    In order for employees from all departments and levels of your organization to benefit from data, they need to first have access. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to have access to all data, but they do need to be able to find information pertinent to their responsibilities. Mass.gov’s analytics dashboards are a great example. They give hundreds of site authors the actionable optimization data needed to create better content. Users will quickly become frustrated if they run into roadblocks when trying to access data so make sure you’re doing an inventory of what access each employee needs to properly do their job. 
  5. Alignment on terminology
    It can get overwhelming with so many different data fields and metrics to evaluate. As an organization, it’s necessary to take the time to create a glossary with definitions that are agreed upon and share these definitions company-wide. 
  6. Train your team
    According to a report Gartner published in 2020, data literacy is among the top three roadblocks for data and analytics leaders and being able to truly make data work for your organization. It’s not enough to have data highly accessible and supported throughout your organization if many don’t know how to properly read and communicate what the data means. In order to become a data-driven organization, invest in user-friendly tools and dashboards that allow  your users to easily understand and draw insights from the data you’re collecting. For example, Acquia CDP’s COVID-19 Analysis Dashboards provide companies with real-time insights into the impact of things like store closures and shifts in customer behaviors.
  7. Activate the data to turn it into customer insights
    Customer preferences and needs change everyday. And everyone in your organization needs to take decisive actions with confidence and agility everyday. Data should be used proactively to optimize customer experiences over time. Leveraging predictive analytics and machine learning at scale to intuitively identify who your customers are, curating engaging experiences for every individual and delivering value to them in every touchpoint in order to drive the next best action in their customer journey. Fueling these decisions with actionable insight is how you make your data work for you. You can have all the data, but if it isn’t informing decisions, what value does it really have? That’s why you need a data measurement strategy.  
  8. Enrich and connect the data across all online and offline channels
    All insight from the organization - customer engagements, industry insight, advertising results…there is insight in every corner that can shed new light and meaning on the data you have, making it richer, more tangible, and more valuable. 

Understanding the Role of Data

Before jumping into creating a data-driven culture, another consideration is connecting data to your business goals. Define how you plan to use analytics to create business advantage and then execute. Each department should identify KPIs that contribute to reaching company goals, and these KPIs and goals should be data-based. Your data strategy must also prioritize customer privacy and governance by being transparent with customers on how their data is being used and providing relevant value in exchange for this personal information.  

Once KPIs and goals are created and agreed upon, keep team members updated on how you’re performing over time. Creating a dashboard that tracks performance is one way to do this. It’s also helpful to review critical numbers in company-wide meetings. By putting the focus on the numbers, team members will naturally become more focused on data and the impact it has on your organization. 

Fostering a data-driven culture is a long term strategy and requires consistent effort. To shift the tides in valuing data, consistently bring it into the conversation. If you’re in a leadership role, encourage your team to back their recommendations and decisions with data and model the same behavior. As you back more decisions with data, start talking about the outcomes of those decisions. And remember having the right mindset, an infinite mindset where you improve over time, will set you up for success.

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