Becoming a data-driven organisation: it's culture


Key takeaways

  • Data-driven organisations start with data-driven cultures.

  • Empower your people by teaching them to use data.

  • The best ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation.

  • Build systems and tools to drive a data culture, and most importantly,

  • Demand that decisions are made using data.


It’s a thing. We want to be data-driven organisations where everyone can use data to make smart decisions about their aspect of the business. Yet how do we do that? Data are locked in databases, in file stores, data warehouses to mention a few.

The individual who wants to know information relevant to their job, has to jump through hoops to try to get access to that data. And what about trying to even find that data in the first place. That in itself is a monumental challenge.

This is a series of articles we’re doing about data, governance, openness and how you can make best use of your company data at all levels of the organisation.

Quick note: Some of these articles are aimed at leaders to help understand the nuances of managing your data. Others are aimed at technical people - helping them to understand how to best use the tools to deliver on data democratization. If you’re reading one and don’t find it applies to you, then skip to the next one.

A data-driven culture

When I worked for Amazon Web Services (AWS), almost the first thing drummed into us was this: we make decisions with data.

This is how all successful companies like Amazon make decisions. What I found most interesting is not that they make decisions with data; it was that everyone in the organisation is expected to do this - it’s not the purview of some high-up manager, or a team in some back room.

As a leader at Amazon, I was expected to use data to support my decisions. As an engineer it was also expected of me. Interacting with everyone, almost the first statement would be “show me the data”.

Yet now, out here in the wild [world of business], companies, despite their best intent, are not able to make this switch, instil it in the organisation - create a data-driven culture.

A data-driven culture is critical to being a data-driven organisation. The best ideas can come from anywhere. Stories abound where some lowly employee saw an opportunity that catapulted the company to greater heights [of course there are equally stories of where some idea was passed up that ended up being a massive win for someone else].

With access to data, all your employees have the opportunity to see insights. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Open Source Software (OSS) it’s this:

The more eyeballs are on the problem, the higher the chance of bugs being detected,

which of course is why OSS has become the de facto go-to for so many use-cases today. It’s cheaper, more reliable and less prone to failure because diverse teams developed it, review it and improve it.

We need to get more eyeballs on the data. The first step to being a data-driven organisation is to help your teams gather the data to support their ideas.

In this series we’ll step through how to build the infrastructure and provide the tools to your teams to instil a data-driven culture. We’ll also look at the risks and how to mitigate them. If people are given access to the data, but don’t know how to use it, or if they misinterpret it, then bad things can happen.

Finally, if you think this is only really applicable to large organisations, you would be wrong. In helping our customers - large and small - we’ve seen over and over that building a data-driven culture is key to organisations of all sizes.


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