Companies that have successfully cultivated a data-driven culture reap a multitude of benefits, from better employee understanding of the value of data and how to apply it to decision-making to a widespread commitment to backing up ideas with data and measuring outcomes across the board.
When you create a data-driven culture, teams are more apt to seek out data to help fine-tune strategies and objectives and can take a more active role in measurement and analysis. But cultivating such a company culture is an obstacle for many companies, particularly those that are just beginning to incorporate data throughout business processes and strategy. Likewise, companies not focused in the technology space may find that employees are less technically savvy and therefore face challenges in gaining employee confidence in new data-driven methodologies.
To enable companies to better cultivate a data-driven company culture, we asked a panel of business intelligence and data-driven marketing professionals to answer the following question:
“What’s the best way to create a data-driven culture within a company?”
We’ve compiled their responses below into this comprehensive guide with expert tips and guidance on creating a data-driven culture within your company.
Find out what our experts had to say below.
Meet Our Panel of Business Intelligence and Data-Driven Marketing Pros:
Sean is an MBA that will tell you that, “You don’t need to be first: Microsoft didn’t make the first OS; Apple didn’t make the first mobile device. You need to be better, to help the customer in a way that matters.” Sean is Co-Founder and Business Development Director at ilos, a ridiculously simple screen recording tool.
“The best way to create a data driven culture is to…”
Start gathering KPI data.
You manage what you measure. If there are metrics that are important to your business that you don’t know off the top of your head then they must not be that important. To create a data-driven culture, make sure the leaders on your team know what they’re being evaluated on and how to measure it. Then at your all-hands meeting, present the numbers from last week and this week.
Here you will quickly see what KPIs are doing and your team will know that they need to focus on the things that can move the needle for your numbers and your business.
Jay Dwivedi is a management consultant who helps senior executives make better business decisions about strategy. He is the founder of Xinvest Consultants.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture within a company is…”
With my clients, I recommend a three-pronged strategy:
1. Measure everything that can be quantified. If something cannot be quantified, it is still better to have qualitative measures, rather than no data. For example, if it is not possible to accurately record the probability of getting an order, it is better to use low/medium/high than not collecting the data at all.
2. Retain the data even if no known uses currently exist. You never know when a piece of data may provide amazing insights into understanding a process better.
3. Send a clear message to the staff that no decisions will be taken unless there is data to back up an approach.
Jonah Harris is a disruptive entrepreneur, visionary, and technologist building products to match. He’s the CTO at MeetMe (NASDAQ: MEET) and NEXTGRES Founder, as well as a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He blogs at Oracle Internals.
“To cultivate a data-driven culture within your organization, it’s important to remember that…”
Without data, you’re simply another person with an opinion.
Big Data. Business Intelligence. Analytics. Data Science. Unless your organization truly values data, these are nothing but buzzwords. Given the number of advances in technology over the last decade, gathering vast amounts of data is relatively easy. It’s what your organization does with data, however, which defines the culture. Sadly, in far too many businesses, mindsets and cultures haven’t always advanced at a similar rate. All too often, with valuable data and insights in hand, people remain invested in their own hunches and intuition. For a data-driven culture to truly take hold, it must be accepted and fostered by the entire organization. Every group, from product to marketing, sales, engineering, and others, must recognize the value in a data and using it to improve on an iterative basis.
Kari Chase Rippetoe is the Director of Marketing at time and expense tracking software company Journyx. She is responsible for directing all marketing and communications activities pertaining to both new customer acquisition and existing customers. Kari has extensive experience in B2B marketing, and previously worked for companies within the technology/software industries.
“To cultivate a data-driven culture within your company…”
I would say the first step is to establish your company’s metrics for success. If you know what you’re measuring (whether that’s sales, marketing, IT, financial/accounting, or operational success), then you can determine how you can collect your data, which is the next step. Use whatever platforms you have available to you to collect the data necessary to measure your success metrics. Once you have the data to prove success (or failure, even, because we can learn some of the most important lessons from failure), then it’s important to indoctrinate from the top down – get to the heart of the data you’ve collected by helping leadership to understand its meaning and value. If your company’s executives are on board with taking a more data-driven approach to measuring success and making strategic decisions (and really, numbers don’t lie), then that will trickle down throughout the company as they begin to require this.
Vaclav works for Clutch as Manager of Client Insights & Strategy. He advises various leading organizations on data-driven approaches to strengthen their brands. He’s a graduate of Coe College and holds a masters from the University of Arizona. He is currently pursuing an MBA degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
“Transitioning to a genuine data-driven culture is a challenge for many organizations, but one of the ideal first steps is to…”
Start leveraging the data your business has to guide evidence-based decision making. When data reinforces or, better yet, contradicts the gut feeling, the conversation around the importance of a data-driven approach is bound to begin. The momentum of the conversation accelerates when data can facilitate a 360-degree view of the business or provide a measurement for aspects of the business thought to be immeasurable before. We work with an array of brands that quickly realize the impact data can have on their strategies, tactics, and overall decisions once they synthesize their fragmented customer data streams across their in-store point-of-sale systems, e-commerce platform, social accounts, mobile applications, and even email newsletter lists. We help our customers realize a complete view of their business and begin to identify, understand, and ultimately motivate customers. This becomes a foundation for their strategies and success, which evolves many employees and executives into believers and champions of the data-driven culture. They key is telling a story with the data to convey its fundamental value.
David Waterman is Senior Director of Earned Media/SEO at The Search Agency (a digital marketing agency). With over 15 years of digital marketing experience, David leverages SEO, PPC, social and display marketing strategies to build brand awareness and authority online.
“The best way to cultivate a data-driven culture within a company is…”
Many companies want to leverage data to make decisions but don’t know how to get in front of the data. The key is to know:
- How to get/collect the data,
- Specifically what data to use,
- How the data will inform business decisions,
- At what frequency the data is needed to make actionable decision, and
- How to package the data so it can be easily digested, analyzed and reacted to.
If these concepts are new to you as a business owner, it’s best to partner with/hire individuals who understand data warehousing, analysis, and presentation. Putting an actionable data process in place requires the right skill set and may need to be customized per department within an organization. My advice is to check with your digital marketing team first. In many cases, they are already making marketing decisions based on data.
Aron Ezra is CEO of OfferCraft, an offer-enhancement marketing technology company. OfferCraft’s patent-pending software platform deploys techniques from behavioral economic and cognitive psychology to make marketing offers and employee incentives far more effective. Ezra was previously the CEO of MacroView Labs (acquired in by Bally Technologies) and a senior executive at several consulting and PR firms. He has given hundreds of presentations to thousands of marketers across all industries. He’s been named one of the Most Intriguing People in Las Vegas and one of the Top 10 Rising Business Leaders in the city. Aron is a graduate of Princeton University.
“To create a data-driven culture within a company, I recommend…”
1) Create a taxonomy that is standardized: Often the hardest part about creating good analytics models isn’t getting the data or building the model; it’s prepping and categorizing the data for analysis.
2) More collaboration: Most companies are so ultra-protective of their proprietary analytics tools that insights are not shared, even among departments.
3) More willingness to embrace what’s possible: I still frequently run into skeptical executives who prefer trusting their gut to trusting “science.” Those are the folks who will be left behind.
4) Better trained employees: Data reports are more sophisticated than the average enterprise staffer is able to interpret. Employees from all departments must be trained in data literacy and interpretation to turn raw data into actionable insights.
5) Tools are getting cheaper: Good data analytics tools traditionally haven’t been cheap or easy to use. Or they have really high upcharges to unlock their most powerful insights. This is changing as cheaper tools with similar or better capabilities are starting to hit the market.
Michelle Burke is the marketing manager for Future Insights, leaders in events for web designers, developers and entrepreneurs.
“To create a data-driven culture within a company…”
Data should be used in every piece of research that sets the tone for your company. While this can’t be implemented overnight, group meetings encouraging employees to use certain data (starting off small!) is a great place to start. Be sure to educate employees on why data is needed – highlight on competitive advantages!
Alex Berman is Chief Marketing Sumo for InspireBeats, an all-in-one lead generation and outreach solution for SaaS startups and B2B companies. He’s responsible for generating over $12 million in inbound leads in the last year.
“The easiest way to create a data driven culture is to…”
Not take any answer without research. The marketing team is saying Twitter is the best channel for your business? Ask them why and make them produce numbers. The sales team says a certain subject line is doing better? Make them send the data to prove it. By consistently asking for data you’ll be priming your employees to always have it ready.
Jessie Warner, a business leader, data-driven marketer, and intrapreneur, is the General Manager of SpinGo. He has over 9 years of experience marketing a variety of B2B products and services, previously on executive teams at two other startups: Bask and Lendio. Warner is a demand generation expert, skilled project manager, front-end coder at night, and spreadsheet master.
“The way you create a data-driven culture within a company is by…”
Getting results through data. Everything starts with good management, so everybody on the executive team needs to buy into the value of data.
How do you do this? You need some quick wins based on data-driven results. When decisions are being made in meetings, you need to, as a manager, ask why people came to the decision they did. You need to ask them for their
reasoning and see if what they are deciding is based on gut instinct or if it is based on data. If it isn’t based on data, have them go back and find the data to back their decision. This has to become routine in order to create new habits in a workplace.
If you don’t have any quick results you can show through data, you need to get your company to buy into it by having upper management read the books Tuned In and The Lean Startup, both of which focus heavily on the
importance of data-backed decisions. One of the lines oft repeated in Tuned In is. “Your opinion, though interesting, is irrelevant.” This idea simply means that one person’s opinion shouldn’t be making the decisions. You need your decisions to be backed and supported by data.
If you walk into a meeting, present your ideas, and have numbers and figures to back your decision making, you carry much more power than simply saying, “I think…” Once people start to buy in, it becomes quite easy to make a data-driven company. People will start measuring results and seeing positive results based off of their work.
One final key point to ensure that you are running a data-driven company is that you have to go and create spreadsheets where employees can measure the results of their efforts every single week. On Monday morning, track your results and see how you did and where you can improve. Data will quickly become the lifeblood of your company.
Gretchen Roberts is founder and CEO of Smoky Labs, a metrics-driven B2B digital and inbound marketing agency. She writes about the latest trends in digital marketing, B2B marketing, and inbound marketing at Under the Microscope, Smoky Labs’ digital marketing blog.
“Creating a data-driven culture is a company-wide effort that can start…”
Top-down or bottom up. Either way, the impetus is obvious: going into 2016, we don’t need to rely on gut-checks any more. The data is there; the question is, how can you best make use of it?
Top-down, the C-suite should ask for numbers and mandate working toward a closed-loop reporting system. This is a big effort, but the ROI is waiting in the wings to be captured as soon as a system is in place and everyone in the organization is committed to using it. The result for the whole team is the ability to make confident decisions based on actual data, which is empowering at all levels of the company.
Bottom up, data providers can’t just be reporters. They must be analysts or reporters who provide context and recommendations – always with business and departmental goals in mind. Often, the bottom-up approach works best because analysts make good recommendations, the C-suite sees the value, and everyone wins.
Erik works as a games producer for Iversoft Solutions and uses consumer-related data to influence his team’s decisions on updates and changes to their mobile apps.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture is to…”
Give the data and numbers a meaning outside of their numerical value. This is done by first knowing what your goals are and the KPIs that will have an impact on those goals. Once your team sees how these indicators can positively (or negatively) affect your progression towards a goal, then these data points become more tangible than simple numbers on a spreadsheet. Tangibility is key to making people care about, and want to use, data.
Tony Faustino is President of Faustino Marketing Strategies. He publishes the content marketing and corporate strategy blog, Social Media ReInvention.
“To illustrate the best way to cultivate a data-driven culture within an organization, I’d point to this case study…”
Of how the Sacramento Kings created a transparent data-driven culture. Phil Horn, VP of Ticket Sales & Service for the Sacramento Kings, spearheaded the team’s successful LinkedIn Social Selling Initiative by creating a culture of collective B2B team selling. During every daily sales huddle, team members shared how they used LinkedIn to identify the right buyers, the required search filters, email subject lines, and content, along with posting Social Selling Index Leaderboards. The organization lived and died by tracking LinkedIn Sales Navigator statistics and LinkedIn InMail activity. Bottom Line Result and ROI: The Sacramento Kings achieved a 17% increase in game attendance – the highest in the NBA. They’re also number one in new season tickets sold.
Paul Bertin is the Head of Performance Marketing at Helpling, a company that makes cleaning services easily accessible to all homes in Dubai.
“When it comes to a data-driven company culture…”
This isn’t something you can create on your own. It emerges from the people who make up your company. What you can do is encourage data-focused work, and for this you need to educate your employees and make data collection and processing transparent. They need to understand what they’re looking at and where it’s coming from. This way they can figure out what it means and how it impacts their work.
Also, it’s important to remember that data does not drive the company. People are the drivers, and data only provides you with a picture of how the internal system is doing and how the environment is evolving. It’s there to support and guide your decisions, not make them for you.
Mat Brogie is COO at Repsly, Inc., a leading provider of simple mobile CRM and data collection software. Mat has 30 years of experience in large and small companies working with everything from Mom & Pop companies to global CPG organizations.
“The #1 thing to do to create a data-driven culture within a company is to…”
Make the data an integral part of all communication. At Repsly, we start almost all of our meetings with a two-minute review of our key business metrics, partly to make sure that everyone has a good understanding of how we are doing, but more importantly to reinforce why we do everything that we do. If we focus on the metrics, the business takes care of itself. For example: Constantly reminding ourselves of our customer satisfaction numbers makes it front-of-mind for everyone to deliver the best customer experience possible, whether it is the marketing team, the account management team, or the product development team. Since all of our communications refer to our business metrics, it has become a major part of our culture to consider data for all of our decisions, whether it is prioritizing marketing spend, making hiring decisions, or enhancing our product.
Jared is a Sr. SEO specialist at Red Door Interactive in San Diego. Originally from Utah, he graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Communication. He enjoys snowboarding and camping in his free time.
“In terms of creating a data-driven culture within a company…”
This is an issue I struggle with on a daily basis, both with my own organization ( a mid-sized marketing agency), Red Door Interactive, and with the clients that we serve. A large portion of my job is spent looking at data, weather its the search volume of keywords or website traffic in Google Analytics. The one thing that remains constant is: all companies want big data; very few know how to use it.
I have two tactics for overcoming the sigma that data has:
1. Get the data out of Excel and into a format that everyone can understand without manipulation. Whether this is through the use of a customized dashboard in a program like Tableau or through the use of automated PDF reports that feature graphs and bullet points about what is happening. People want the answers that the data can provide; they just don’t want to be the one that has to get it.
2. When it comes to behavior metrics, our creative, social, and content teams don’t look at how a piece performed post-mortem. Because of this they continue to make content that doesn’t perform well, but looks cool. The first thing I like to do is show people what doesn’t work during a brainstorm or planning meeting. This usually transitions into learning what did work in the past and learning from it.
Once people see the amount of information that they can use to be better at whatever they do, they usually won’t stop asking me for data. That’s when I start to train others how to use GA (Google Analytics) or other analytics tools.
Swetha Venakataramani is a Content Marketing and Communication professional with 6+ years of experience across geographies and industries. She started her career as a magazine journalist and transitioned into public relations (PR) before becoming a content marketing and communication strategist for various clients in both the B2B and B2C sectors. Her present role is Manager, Communication & Content at 9Lenses.
“The most effective way to create a data-driven culture within a company is to…”
Tie back to the bottom line. Most marketing professionals these days, from an entry-level marketer to the CMO, tracks and reports metrics. The best way to make sure that they proactively looks for useful metrics to report on is by educating every team member on how his/her efforts contribute to the business’ bottom line. For instance, if you are a social media manager, knowing that your efforts are helping to feed the top of the funnel could help you look for the best way to analyze and report on the type of messages that actually result in leads for your company.
Addam Marcotte is Vice President of Organization Development for FMG Leading. He holds a Masters in Organization Development from Pepperdine University and has consulted for hundreds of organizations. At FMG Leading, his work centers on large-scale organizational culture change, executive coaching, and team development.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture in an organization is to…”
Help people understand how this will benefit them. There are two primary fears that people have when shifting to a data-driven culture: the first is that they will be scrutinized (and potentially punished) because everything is being measured more publicly. The second is the concern that becoming more numbers-focused will cause it to feel like a less personal work environment. Leadership must be able to address these concerns.
Organizational leadership needs to show how becoming data-driven can actually help people in their jobs, not punish them.
Here are some important steps toward creating a data-driven culture:
- Don’t make this a top-down change. Engage people on the front line to help implement this change. Select some internal culture champions who can help sponsor the change, and others will follow their lead.
- It must be transparent to everyone what data is being collected. Don’t keep it a secret or else it feels like people are being evaluated against mysterious criteria. Let employees know what it takes to win.
- Once data is collected, share it with employees. And share it visually and in an interactive way (e.g., dashboards).
- Create steps for everyone to know what they can individually do to improve the data and move the needle. Many companies are considering gamification as a means of improving key metrics.
- Be patient; culture change takes time. People will need to see how this is benefiting them and the company in order to buy into it.
To create a meaningful culture change, leadership must be able to show how this change will help the business and most importantly what the impact will be to the individual. People always want to know, “What does this mean for me?” Initially people who haven’t had clear metrics around performance may resist the change. However, in the long run, studies show that people actually perform better when they know what it takes to succeed.
The culture change is less about the data and more about what the data represents. Leadership must create a narrative about what this means and how it will help.
Eric Baum is the CEO of Blueleadz. Bluleadz started out in 2009 as a website design, SEO, and PPC agency. Upon discovering HubSpot, they went “all in” with inbound marketing. As it turns out, they were ahead of the curve at the time and continue to be pioneers in the industry today. Blueleadz team members are creative, innovative, and passionate, but most of all they care about their clients’ success. Blueleadz truly embraces inbound marketing in everything they do.
“Creating a data-driven culture starts with…”
A clear vision of the end goal. You have to define and rally around achieving one big, specific goal that you need to achieve. For instance, it may be, “We are going to increase revenue by 20% this quarter,” or, “We are going to reduce our customer churn rate by 10% this quarter.” Then you define all of the steps (along with the corresponding key performance indicators) that have to happen to be able to achieve this goal. Now, everything your team does has to be tracked in terms of whether it will help achieve your goals. And if so, which metric is it moving? With everyone working to hit the one big goal it becomes easier to stay on track with the individual metrics because your team knows why they must hit them, as well as the purpose.
With an iPhone, MacBook, and iPad on hand at all times, Alessandra’s enthusiasm and expertise for marketing and social media landed her the Director of Marketing position for a leading software company. After graduating from the University of Southern California, Alessandra gained years of experience as a Public Relations executive in both San Diego and Los Angeles. She was responsible for developing and executing marketing campaigns, both online and offline, for numerous companies across multiple industries. Her passion for small business and online marketing led her to her current position, Director of Marketing, at her company TnA Ink.
“The #1 thing to do when creating a data-driven culture is to…”
Ensure that every team member is on board with the technology your business is using. The entire team needs to be using the same platform (an integrated business system) with access to data from all departments.
From CRM to marketing automation and customer service software, each member of your team should have access to the same data for use in their own roles. For example, marketing should be able to view any CRM record or help
desk records to track and monitor the customer experience. Access to this data enables marketers and execs to see if there are trends in support or customer service issues. CRM data lets marketing know which of their efforts are working and how best to segment their contact list.
Support should have access to the CRM record to view past support issues, conversations with sales people, and more. This gives customer service representatives more information about the client, such as if they read certain emails, visited certain pages, submitted support requests before, etc. This way they can provide the best customer experience possible.
Sales should be able to access both customer service and marketing data as this gives them a holistic view of their lead or client so they can better serve their needs.
Moral of the story? Ensure that you are utilizing one system for your entire team and that marketing, sales, and operations reside in the same system so everyone has access to the data they need. This enhances the customer experience, makes your marketing more effective, and helps sales seal the deal.
Parag Mamnani is the Founder and CEO of Webgility. Parag’s passion for technology comes from hands-on experience in design, development, and marketing of business software. He has led cross-functional teams to deliver software solutions for thousands of e-commerce companies. Parag’s e-commerce expertise, innate leadership skills, and scary-smart business savvy drive Webgility’s growth.
Now leading the Webgility software solutions company through tremendous growth and development, Parag believes that most business challenges can be solved by looking closely at data. He loves numbers and gets the same rush from looking at a spreadsheet as he does from finding the perfect hot sauce pairing for his lunch.
“If you want to build a data-driven culture, you first need to…”
Make sure you can understand and connect your data. Given the numerous sources and systems feeding businesses today, this can be a huge challenge. The best thing to do is to find a way to run all your operations from a single view, unifying your business data rather than switching back and forth between platforms. Only when data analysis is a tool instead of a challenge can a data-driven culture thrive.
Izzy Squire is a Digital Marketing Outreach Executive at quba.co.uk, a digital communications and web technology agency. Her professional interests lie in the world of Content Marketing.
“There’s a very simple answer to the question of how to create a data-driven culture within a company…”
If your team is full of creative types, the type of people who thrive in brainstorming sessions and excel during the creation process, then you might have noticed that the same people probably lose interest when the conversation turns to data (not always, but regularly). Why? Well, data means numbers and numbers means straightforward answers, and in the mind of a creative person there are no straight-forward answers.
So, how do you introduce a data-driven culture to a creative-driven team? You humanize the data.
Data comes from consumer action. How corporate does that sound? Try saying ‘Information comes from looking into how people think.’ Better? Slightly. The point is that you can’t force people to be interested in something, but you can change the angle from which you look at something to make it more interesting. Creative people work with other people’s emotions in mind, so approach conversations about data in the same way. The data you want to present isn’t from users or consumers; it’s from real, breathing people who have acted in a certain way to give you that data. Focus on the people, not the data.
Spencer X. Smith
Spencer X. Smith is a former VP of Sales at a Fortune 100 company turned digital marketing entrepreneur. He also teaches business planning and Internet marketing classes at the University of Wisconsin.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture is to…”
Establish an agreed-upon version of the truth. Oftentimes, those in marketing and those who are executives frankly don’t want to know what works and what doesn’t.
For example, the company where I used to work had a celebrity endorser. Those who were really important at the company got to meet him and had stories to share at the sales meetings about what a great guy he is. Did he help those of us in field sales sell anything? Who knows. There were never any data distributed that showed his influence.
I found, then, that if data is going to be both collected and analyzed, we need to have those at the highest level of a company first establish a course of action. If the data tells us one thing, we do x. If it tells us something else, we do y. Because the psychology of resistance is so prevalent, especially at larger companies, we need the executives to identify the current truth and, based on data, make objective decisions.
Steven Macdonald is a Digital Marketer at SuperOffice and is based in Tallinn, Estonia.
“The key to creating a data-driven culture within a company is to…”
In weekly meetings, try to avoid “I think” discussions, and instead present performance numbers. Show trends based on the last 3-6 months and give top management access to web analytics to view website stats.
At SuperOffice, everyone from the CEO, product developers, and content writers have access to view website performance data in Google Analytics. We’ve made it easy and helped the team bookmark the overview page to see the last 30 day trend. This allows us to be on the same page when discussing the direction of the company and the
priorities that what we work on.
Carly Klineberg has a BA-Hons in Journalism with five years’ experience working in several startups, specializing in tech startups. Currently, she is the Head of Content at growth hacking agency, Rebel Hack.
“In trying to cultivate a data-driven culture within a company…”
It’s hard for large companies not used to making decisions based on data to change the company culture. Often, departments don’t share data, and those with the knowledge on how to measure and record data don’t have a channel to impart this important knowledge throughout the company. Sharing and learning are two essential things that need to be implemented in a larger company that wants to begin to create a data-driven culture.
Let’s look at three ways to do this.
1) Know which data you need to measure (it’s the stuff that hurts).
There is a huge amount of data, yet not all of it is worth concentrating on. There’s no point in being data-driven if you don’t know what key metrics to look at. The data you/departments need to measure should be based on the goals they are trying to achieve. This data to measure is usually the data that hurts. You need to know what’s not working in order to fix it.
If you don’t have anyone in the company who focuses on data analysis, it’s a good idea to hire someone who does. They can then help each team identify which data they need to focus on and help them understand how to report on
the results. One way to do this is to create in-depth spreadsheets with key metrics that every person in each team has a role in recording and improving.
2) Get everyone involved with data analysis and recording on some level.
Getting departments to create monthly reports on identified key metrics – making sure everyone in the team is responsible for reporting on and working on at least one key metric – is a great way to make sure the entire company becomes aware of the importance of joining their actions with data results. Also, in giving responsibility to individuals you get them to directly associate their role with data. They can directly affect the inputs which effect the outputs. Even if they are just recording how many sales they made that day (if this is a key metric).
3) All decisions must be based on data.
Before any department or individual makes a key decision that will affect the company in some way or embarks on a project, get them to justify this through data. Which metric will this decision affect and in what way? Is there any data to support this? Can they try it out on a small scale first to measure data in order to give a better indication of the success of the decision or project?
Decisions should not be made on gut instinct, but with supporting data that backs them up.
Everyone in the company should have some kind of training in analytics, especially managers so that they feel empowered to ask the right questions when it comes to finding the data that matters to them.
Steve Sadler, CEO of Allegiancy, is a bit of a maverick, prone to speaking plainly and directly while taking on what he calls the ‘box-checking and bootlicking crowd.’ He’s a Mississippi-born, raised on a farm, Florida State grad whose billion-dollar real estate asset management firm with a portfolio stretching from coast to coast is at the forefront of a revolutionary crowdfunding platform called the new Reg A, or IPO-lite.
“The overriding goal and the message for companies to rally around when it comes to creating a data-driven culture is to…”
Leverage the information to make more money for investors, clients, and partners.
It’s important to create a culture of action through data-driven discipline. What does that mean in execution? It’s leveraging technology to understand relationships in the data sets, allowing companies to predict what will happen next with surprising accuracy. This forward-leaning approach is fueling efficiencies that can propel companies to
the forefront of industry.
As an example, the commercial real estate industry has been slow to embrace big data. It’s still largely an industry that’s run on a 1950s model that centers around vertical integration and apprenticeship, where the database is made up of sticky notes and the decision engine is a yellow pad. You know, the “this is the way we’ve always done it” model.
In pioneering a new method of active asset management for commercial real estate, our analysts and executives harness the power of algorithms and analytics to discover new relationships in operational data that allow us to create lasting asset value.
Allegiancy President Chris Sadler describes it simply as “mining a little deeper to discover gold for our clients.”
Essentially, new insights lead to big opportunities. The big data companies can mine might be a million pieces of data or more. The way it works at our company is this: in analyzing the data, our analysts find relationships and uncover anomalies and then push those discoveries to managers in the firm who can act quickly on the information to create improved efficiencies. It’s taking every data point in every building in our company’s portfolio — whether that’s monitoring HVAC systems, capturing temperature control statistics, tracking tax payments, or myriad other reams of data — and figuring out how it can be used to improve efficiencies and increase profitability.
And it moves the needle in terms of results for clients and the assets companies like ours manage.
Guillermo Ortiz is the founder of Geek Powered Studios. He’s addicted to data and taking campaigns from good to great. His history as a competitive gamer makes him no stranger to digital street fights or standing up to the Google gods.
“When it comes to creating a data-driven culture within a company, I’ve personally found that…”
Sharing the outcomes of split tests and other data driven initiatives with employees really fires them up. They see how our decisions directly impact our customers’ bottom lines. We’ve had some tests that have yielded over 600% increases and it’s hard not inspire others within the company with those types of results.
Mark Rome is the CEO of Empower2adapt. Rome has supported a number of special projects focused on improving employee engagement and empowerment by deploying employee feedback loops to solicit feedback on an ongoing basis, identify the root cause of their concerns, and then follow through with meaningful change.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture within a company is to…”
Collect relevant, reliable, and sufficient data around “outcome-based” performance measures.
The data collected should provide valuable insights to make informed, strategic decisions that align people (hard and soft skills, performance levels, decision-making, etc.), business processes, projects, and infrastructure (equipment, facilities, IT systems, technology, etc.) with company strategy. By looking at all the variables simultaneously, leadership can effectively and efficiently allocate resources to optimize outcomes.
Priyanka Prakash is a lending specialist at FitBizLoans.com, a platform that brings together all of the major financing options to help small business owners get low-rate business loans. A former attorney, Priyanka has experience working at a startup, law firm practice, and several government agencies. She now focuses on helping small businesses understand a variety of financial topics, such as credit scores and loan rates.
“The best way to have a data-driven culture is to…”
Share data! Have a forum where everyone on the team can analyze relevant data together and figure out how the data will affect their day-to-day tasks. This encourages everyone on the team to think about their work from a data-driven standpoint.
For example, at FitBiz Loans, we have a meeting every Friday afternoon where we track the status of loan leads that have come in through our sales pipeline as well as other data, such as where our marketing dollars are being spent and the quality of leads coming in from different marketing channels. We then talk about what this means for everyone on the team. For example, if we’re getting a lot of potential clients who are interested in SBA loans, our writing staff will produce more content on SBA loans, and our marketing staff will focus their efforts more on SBA loans.
By discussing this type of data together, it brings everyone on the team on the same page and helps them realize why they are working on one thing rather than another. Every employee wants to feel like they are contributing something valuable to their team and company, and discussing data together helps make this a reality. Of course, this also helps our customers, who end up getting better content and services!
Marc Prosser is the co-founder and managing partner of Marc Waring Ventures, a firm which develops specialty internet properties for high-value audiences. The company’s portfolio of websites includes Fit Small Business, which provides product and service reviews for small business owners, and Fit Biz Loans, which connects small business owners with the least expensive loans possible. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, Marc was the CMO of FXCM for ten years. He joined as FXCM’s first employee and grew the company to more than 700 employees.
“To create a data-driven culture, you need to…”
Get your employees to engage with data. We strongly encourage our team to make recommendations and arguments based on data. If someone wants to offer suggestions on how to boost our web traffic, they need to back that with relevant search data. That includes hard data, like Google’s own search traffic volume, and it can involve numbers that have already been ‘crunched’ by a trusted tool, such as the Moz SEO toolbar.
Either way, by getting your team to think in terms of quantifiable data, you accomplish a few things. For one, their suggestions are likely to be more accurate, since they’re based on facts, not just gut feelings. For another, though, they’ll get more comfortable working with data and develop a better understanding of their work. So an employee who’s familiar with the data behind something actually will have a more accurate ‘gut feeling’ than one who hasn’t used data much.
Ryan Jones is a manager of SEO and Analytics at Sapient living in Allen Park, MI. Ryan runs several websites and is a social media junkie. Ryan (winner of Time Magazine’s 2006 person of the year award) enjoys Texas country music, hockey, golf, softball, writing about himself in third person, and trying to take over the world – which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog.
“The best way to create a data-driven culture is with…”
Evangelism. It starts by sitting down with other groups inside the organization, understanding their issues, and showing them how data and analysis can make their jobs easier. Visualize the data in ways that make the insights more obvious, make people’s jobs easier with data, and you’ll get buy-in from key stakeholders. Visualization goes a long way. When you just send an Excel file many people don’t know what to do with it. When you send a picture, chart, or interactive diagram, it’s easier for people to digest and actually use the data to inform their decisions.
Bayan Towfiq is the co-founder and CEO at Flowroute. His vision for the future of telecommunications keeps him actively involved in regulatory development and FCC proceedings. Flowroute was founded in 2007 and is a privately held company based in Seattle, WA.
“Here’s how we at Flowroute have shifted our corporate culture to focus more on the ‘democratization of data’ for our employees…”
Transparency and visibility are at the core of Flowroute’s culture, so our first step in becoming more data-driven was to give every employee access to all of our data analytics tools, including Interana, Google Analytics, and KissMetrics. This allowed everyone in the organization to be access and view information such as AdWords spend vs. CTR, account signups and activations, and feature usage, as well as the growth of top accounts, which helped our employees to become more engaged with and invested in the company. By sharing the data across the organization, team members developed a stronger sense of project ownership; having access to data also provided legitimacy to the time, resources, and money being spent on projects and product development.
This approach has led to improvements in employee morale and talent retention at Flowroute by empowering employees and providing an accurate, transparent view at the state of our business.
Adam Nameh is the CEO of NGV-AN Consulting firm, and Toronto’s #1 Reporting Lead. He has worked on and created IT solutions for some of the globe’s top organizations (Rogers Communications, Schneider Electric, Bank
of Montreal, Nissan North America as well as McDonald’s).
“Three major points must first be addressed by a company in order to introduce a data-driven culture…”
Firstly, an organization must identify a premise where a change is required. Being a large enterprise IT consultant, a common office-space saying which I’m often told is ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ Which is fair, yet remains as the biggest roadblock an organization will face in making a transition into a data-driven culture. While it may seem intuitive, any change will cost an organization time and money in the short-term. An organization must first ask, “What are we trying to accomplish and under what premise can we justify this change?” This premise varies from one industry to another. In marketing the change into a data-driven culture has been identifying the target audience and minimizing advertising costs by pitching exclusively to them, whereas in sales the premise has been identifying your sales representatives’ weaknesses and strengths, understanding your customers’ needs, and maximizing your sales by connecting the right salespeople to the most likely purchaser.
Secondly, a company must identify the long-term monetary benefits of the shift towards a data-driven culture. These are hard numbers which come as the reward from a more informed decision making process and a reduction in
operational costs. A change within a company culture must be driven by management, and a quick glimpse at the Globe’s top tech companies has proven time and time again that companies with a data-driven culture operate with lower operational costs and lower errors in decision making ultimately increasing a company’s profits. As it turns out, profits and cash-flow matter to upper management.
Lastly and most importantly, employees within the organization must be at ease with the change by understanding that when you toss a heavy dose of data science into the decision-making process, it provides more leverage to each employee to drive positive change up through the organization by backing up their decisions by facts and scientific data. Also, introducing new software that facilitates the decision-making process means the execution of employees’ day-to-day tasks will become easier and more efficient.
David Ciccarelli is the co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, an online marketplace that connects businesses with voice-over talent. A graduate of the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (2000), Ciccarelli has worked in the industry for over a decade, expanding its reach in Silicon Valley and New York.
“To create a data-driven culture within an organization…”
High performance cultures are driven by a common goal and good communication in its pursuit. For us, the common goal is nothing short of complete industry domination. We’ve articulated by repeating the phrase, “To lead and transform,” which recognizes that this will be an ongoing process. To that end, clearly communicating progress along the way is of the utmost importance. We’ve found a few venues to do so. The first being a daily internal meeting called ‘The Huddle.’ This fast-paced session is packed with information and follows a consistent agenda. We open by celebrating good news then moving quickly into the numbers where key performance metrics are verbally reported and written on a giant clearboard. Next, we discuss operational systems, providing an opportunity for the team to raise concerns or identify areas for improvement. We wrap it up by opening the floor to share a thank you where we express gratitude for each other. This daily news format goes quickly and is kept to 10 minutes right before lunch.
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