Five Steps to Building a Data Culture

What’s holding businesses back from developing a culture of data-driven decision making, and what steps do they need to take in order to grow this culture successfully?

By now, it’s clear that data-driven decision-making adds a competitive advantage. Improved data awareness leads to quicker responsiveness, which is essential to staying ahead of your competitors. And establishing a true data culture results in confident decisions being made quicker.

However, in a recent survey from New Vantage Partners, 95% of senior executives stated that the main challenge in achieving the elusive “data culture” are “processes and people”.

To address this gap, here are our five tips for building a data culture:

1. Lead with transparency

Whatever your data goals are, senior leaders have to be the catalyst for driving a data strategy – and the first step should be improving transparency.

In fact, research carried out by Prosci shows that “active and visible” executive sponsorship is the top contributor to leading a successful culture change.

Historically, data discussions have been exclusive to the C-suite, often hidden behind closed doors. But having a concrete data strategy (and sharing it with your team) brings a level of transparency that not only your customers will appreciate, but also your employees. Data shouldn’t be taboo but should be openly analysed, shared and discussed around the business.

Drive sharing data with the company, whether that be at an all-hands meeting or in a regular newsletter. Seeing this, employees will be encouraged to have open data discussions with each other and across departments. If not in place already, implementing tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams will also strengthen communication across the business.

2. People are 50%, the process is 30% and the product is 20%

According to Whole Whale, getting buy-in from employees is the only way to build and maintain a data culture. Staff need to genuinely understand the importance of data literacy in order to be motivated to not only improve their knowledge but continue honing their skills.

Process plays a 30% part in a data culture; having solid processes protects the data from personnel or organisational change. Previous insights should be stored for future employees and this will create quicker data-driven decision making in the future.

Finally, providing your employees with technology that allows them to make data-driven decisions is essential. Investing in exciting products engages your staff and gets them wanting to experiment, and with modern technology, makes it easier for them to get insights and reap the rewards.

3. Implement a one customer view

Different departments often want to use their own systems and tools; however, when it comes to data, this leads to an inconsistent perspective on the customer.

Adopting a one customer view allows you to see all the interactions a customer has had with your company throughout the sales funnel.

There are a few steps to achieving this:

  • Use tools that can be leveraged across different teams.
  • Inaccurate data is extremely costly – spend time validating it.
  • Re-evaluate how the data is managed – determining its accuracy shouldn’t be the responsibility of one team.
  • Make it a priority within the C-suite – in a recent KPMG report, CEOs stated that they planned to explore the market of analytics products and services, with data being one of their top three investment priorities over the next three years.

4. Allow for experimentation

Without encouragement from senior leaders, data strategies can easily revert to stale Excel reports that aren’t read by anyone.

Improvements are only made by employees trying something new, so allow them to experiment. It keeps staff excited and grows their data skills, so give them the confidence to make mistakes and learn from them.

“Now that our data is democratized, thousands of people can access it for their daily work. […] We see a lot of oxygen in the organization, a lot of excitement about what is possible and the innovation that’s possible. […] And our people now have the ability to act on their innovative ideas and create value.”

– Ibrahim Gokcen, Maersk (Why Data Culture Matters, McKinsey)

Experimentation is a time efficient way of building strong business cases that are based on not just intuition, but facts as well.

5. Improve data skills with training

While bringing in lots of new data analysts to your company can be a quick win, it’s not going to create a data culture.

It’s important to strike the balance between hiring data science experts and investing in growing your existing staff’s data skills. And there’s a commercial imperative to doing so: “For a typical Fortune 1000 company, just a 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65 million additional net income,” said Richard Joyce, Senior Analyst at Forrester.

However, when employees hear about “data training”, they may dread sitting in a room looking at spreadsheets all day. So, invest in a data science course that’s interesting, exciting and engaging.

The future is data, whether you like it or not

Digital Leaders Week focuses on showcasing UK digital transformation across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, but digital transformation can’t happen without there being a data shift too. Unless leaders fly the flag for greater data literacy, employees will struggle to see it as a priority.

Driving a data culture is not only a commercial imperative but essential to future-proofing your business. It’s therefore critical to create a sense of urgency within the organisation to ensure that everyone truly understands the need for cultural change.

Here at AVADO, we recognise the growing market need. We believe that businesses need to adopt a two-pronged approach: developing business-savvy data scientists and upskilling the whole organisation’s data capabilities. Which is why we’ve launched a new Data Academy, which aims to transform the way entire organisations approach data.

Our multi-faceted offering can help upskill employees at all levels of the organisation to be more data-confident, and trains data employees to become more commercially-minded, helping them to crack real business problems and demonstrate impact. Many of our academy programs can even be accessed for free, leveraging the apprenticeship levy.

Want to learn more about how AVADO could transform your organisation? Email us at

Stephanie Khan

Posted June 18, 2019