Limitless cloud resources, cloud-based analytics, and machine learning are revolutionizing decision-making and automation in enterprises. Taking advantage of these capabilities, however, can be a struggle for companies steeped in decades-old processes, data fiefdoms, and legacy systems.
Many existing workflows and processes have been optimized for a traditional management model that walls off pockets of data for use by certain departments and business units, with few individuals ever seeing the full data picture. Optimizing the business value of data requires opening up access across the organization so that all decision makers—from the CEO to the front-line employee—are working with an up-to-date, single version of the “truth.”
Technology plays an important role in creating a data-driven culture, to be sure. Modern analytics and machine learning tools, combined with cloud-based data infrastructure, provide a foundation for a unified enterprise-wide data strategy. But the biggest success factor is making an organization-wide shift to a data-driven mindset and the processes and policies that support it. These fundamental changes to how the business operates require executive leadership commitment, which includes educating the workforce about the intrinsic value of data to the company.
“The C-suite must go beyond just supporting [a data-driven culture],” AWS Enterprise Strategist Ishit Vachhrajani wrote recently. “They need to remain engaged and involved, visibly marrying data with good business instincts to make decisions.”
Democratizing your data
The first change business leaders must commit to is democratizing data across the company. Decisions—regardless of who makes them and at what level of the company—should be based on current, synchronized data that reflects all relevant variables throughout the organization. Democratizing data involves integrating different silos of information and making data accessible, with the proper controls, to anyone who needs access to it.
A welcome byproduct of this data unification is a more collaborative corporate culture, in which departments and business units no longer jealously guard their data coffers with separate programs, expertise, and technology. In the modern data era, corporate culture is more altruistic, in that everyone shares data for the good of the company as a whole. When you treat data as one of your company’s strategic products, you’ll likely find value in bringing together groups that perhaps never interacted before, such as application and data engineers, and discover new value that you hadn’t even anticipated.
Traits of a data-driven enterprise
There are several actions integral to achieving a data-driven mindset. They include the following:
- Treat data as an organizational asset rather than as departmental property. Create a data governance model that provides greater access to data, in part by first reviewing how data currently flows in your organization and what access controls are in place. This helps determine the level of difficulty employees face when accessing the data they need, bringing into focus what changes are needed.
- Unify your data. To make decisions quickly, you need to connect your data lake, data warehouse, and purpose-built data stores into a secure, well-governed system. From there, virtualizing data allows business users to conduct interactive and multidimensional analysis using the tools of their choice.
- Make IT a central player in the reorganized business structure. IT teams are uniquely positioned with an end-to-end view of business cycles, cross-departmental workflows, and transactional systems and as such should play an important role in creating your democratized, data-driven environment.
- Put the data to work: Data is used in analytics and ML to make better decisions, create efficiencies, and drive new innovations.
- Break business goals into manageable pieces. “Becoming data-driven” can feel like a boundless and overwhelming undertaking. It’s best to break the initiative into manageable pieces. This might involve, for example, identifying a single data project that could be a steppingstone to others, such as migrating an on-premises application to a cloud-based environment. Continue to add small successes one by one from there.
Building a data-driven organization requires leaders who recognize the value of data and analytics. They’ll champion the changes needed to make data fully accessible so that all employees can harness it in new and profitable ways.
Learn more about ways to reinvent your business with data.