For years, IT and data leaders have been striving to help their companies become more data driven. By most accounts, companies are making the necessary investments, as evidenced by the majority of heads of IT (52%) saying data analytics and machine learning will drive the most IT investment at their organizations this year, according to CIO.com\u2019s State of the CIO survey.\n\nBut technology investment alone is not enough to make your organization data driven. It requires the right vision, culture, and commitment.\n\n\u201cA lot of organizations have tried to treat data as a project,\u201d says Traci Gusher, EY Americas data and analytics leader. \u201cIt can\u2019t be treated as a project; it has to be treated as a function. Until organizations start to treat data as an imperative operational unit, they\u2019re going to continue to struggle to get any kind of consistency and quality in data.\u201d\n\nSuch strategic missteps may signal an ongoing issue at the C-level, with company leaders recognizing the importance of data and analytics but falling short on making the strategic changes and investments necessary for success.\n\nA recent report from Alation and Wakefield Research found that 71% of data leaders are \u201cless than very confident\u201d that their company\u2019s leadership sees a link between investing in data and analytics and staying ahead of the competition, with 51% expecting to get half or less of the amount they say they need. In fact, two-thirds of data leaders said company leadership was an obstacle to getting the funding they need, with 35% of that group citing lack of support from company leadership and 42% saying company leaders make promises but don\u2019t follow through.\n\nOne remedy for this disconnect has been to give data a seat at the C-suite table, with many companies over the past several years hiring chief data officers (CDOs) to helm data initiatives. But in 2021, Harvard Business Review noted that the average tenure of a CDO is between two and two-and-a-half years.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s not because they\u2019re checked out,\u201d says EY\u2019s Gusher. \u201cIt\u2019s because they either are not getting the resources they need, are not getting the funding that they need, or they\u2019re being viewed as ineffective because they\u2019re not making progress. I think that speaks volumes to the type of commitment that organizations have to make around data in order to actually move the needle.\u201d\n\nWhat actually works\n\nSo if funding and C-suite attention aren\u2019t enough, what then is the key to ensuring an organization\u2019s data transformation is successful? Companies that commit to treating data as a product and to transforming their culture are the ones that succeed, says Doug Laney, innovation fellow of data and analytics strategy at West Monroe. Laney, a former distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, studied how companies used their data when he was with the research firm.\n\n\u201cWe found that companies that treat data more as an asset have a market-to-book value ratio that\u2019s nearly two times higher than the market average. And companies that sell data products or data derivatives of some kind have a 3x market-to-book value ratio,\u201d he says.\n\nAccording to Alation, companies that have a strong data culture outperform their peers. In its survey, Alation found that 90% of companies with top-tier data cultures met or exceeded their revenue goals over the past 12 months. The company defines data culture as consisting of three key disciplines:\n\nCompanies with top-tier data cultures have widely adopted all three disciplines across departments, Alation says.\n\nOf course, building a vision and culture around data that gets your company to that point is the trick. The first step, according to EY, is to adopt a visionary core data strategy. Such a strategy should connect how data will inform, support, and drive an organization\u2019s short- and long-term strategic business plans. It should also reduce threats identified in enterprise risk management plans and help capitalize on opportunities. This requires a dedicated data team with leadership, resources, and executive support, EY\u2019s Gusher says.\n\n\u201cAll too often, companies think of data as a technology problem, and it\u2019s just not,\u201d says Gusher.\n\nAnatomy of a data strategy\n\nSpecifically, EY says a well-developed data strategy should include several key areas:\n\nA fifth vital element is getting change management right, says Mike Giresi, chief digital officer of electronics manufacturer Molex, adding that the key to making your company more data-driven is helping everyone understand why they should do things differently.\n\n\u201cI think the primary reason the majority of these efforts fail is that the change management aspect shouldn\u2019t just be about training people how to do something better,\u201d Giresi says. \u201cIt\u2019s really about connecting them to why they should want to do it differently and then incentivizing them with a culture that reinforces that. It has nothing to do with the tech. It has everything to do with understanding the value proposition that the company is performing against.\u201d\n\nAnd this change effort must come from the very top, Giresi says, requiring a lot of CEO engagement.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s great for the grassroots to be connected to it and support it, but ultimately you\u2019re going to have to change the mental model of business unit leadership in terms of what they value and how they\u2019re supporting and incentivizing change,\u201d he says.\n\nAnd that makes educating the C-suite on the importance of data transformation a key CIO remit today.