As companies around the world begin to embrace that their future operating model is going to need to be Digital First, the race is now on for companies to invest in technology and data assets to create new value and opportunity. Nick Bell, Group CEO of Decision Inc looks at how this may play out.

At Decision Inc., we are seeing these investment decisions beginning to accelerate and companies looking to use technology to deliver, not only performance improvements, but also competitive differentiation.

The challenge is that leaders are generally not thinking broadly enough about what truly creates digital success. Investing in technology is critical to provide the platform and potential for scale. However, an effective digital strategy puts people at the heart of the transformation process. Whilst that statement is not new there is a distinct difference in the approach that successful companies are taking to deliver digital progress. They understand that digital is first and foremost a culture change. This means they must focus on tackling the complexity of culture transformation as well as technology transformation.

Some of the most successful transformation programmes succeed because the companies shift their focus to building a data-driven culture. They understand that alongside the investment in technology, they need to equip their people to think and act differently to leverage the opportunity of data and technology. At the heart of this is the move away from a training-based approach to a mindset that embraces continuous learning

We have identified three stages a business must go through to achieve this goal:

Data-Aware  à   Data-Critical  à  Data-Driven

Data-Aware is where everyone in the business, not just data scientists, are made aware of data and how critical it is in their decision-making processes. Data-Critical is the stage when everyone understands that data really is crucial to how they make decisions. The final stage, Data-Driven, is where the business is using its data efficiently to respond to the market and make data-based decisions that increase their bottom line, ahead of their competition.

Continual learning

Part of becoming Data-Driven, is a shift to how the company learns and improves. Given that much of digital transformation is about continuous improvement, people in the organisation need to adopt a similar mindset when it comes to learning. To leverage the opportunity in data, people need to adapt and improve in line with the volume and velocity of data that is being created and consumed. This transformation must take shape from the CEO all the way down the company. Furthermore, this data needs to drive overall improvement as opposed to having isolated pockets of improvement.

In a data-driven company, data and data literacy are no longer the sole responsibilities of analysts and data scientists. Everyone in the business becomes a data user and is empowered to work with and deliver value from data. Different users have different use cases and learning needs. To deliver a successful data culture initiative, the business needs to look at the roles and capability requirements of each user and how they want to consume information. Once this has been done, correct learning solutions can be developed to suit those specific needs.

A new culture

Building a data-driven culture requires an immersive engagement programme. Our experience with companies across several industries is that this programme needs to cover the following areas: human-to-human interaction, have multiple learning pathways, develop healthy communities of practice, and leverage technology platforms to scale across the entire organisation.

Critically important to building this programme is the enablement of the business’ own people. As such, a company must make data literacy part of the tools and capabilities that everyone has access to. The programme must contain personalised learning pathways for the various roles and functions across the business. The content should be matched to ensure consistency in experience and alignment to objectives. As this is done, the developed knowledge needs to be codified and stored within the organisation – updating as the business changes.

Creating communities of practice is a great tool to support culture transformation. This can be achieved by creating champions who drive excellence around the business. Thus, change occurs through people within the business driving the change.

Ultimately, solutions like these will provide the catalyst to drive cultural transformation.

Throughout a programme of this nature, the business is constantly developing and creating new knowledge. Scaling knowledge is critical to the successful programme. This process will see the creation and development of new knowledge within the business. By making organisational knowledge part of the culture of improvement, a company can codify the knowledge contained within experts in the business enabling the company to scale and enhance that knowledge over time – rather than lose it when experts move on.

A key element to continual improvement is to measure the success of any programmes that are developed. By engaging constantly and testing competency within the business, leaders will not only be able to determine if the organisation’s capability has improved but see how it translates to people’s engagement with data and their performance. They can then test how close they are to being a data-driven company.

Achieving success

Becoming a data-driven company should be the aim of every business. But it is not something that can be achieved overnight. It is a journey a business needs to go on and it requires a cultural change to occur throughout the business.

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