Data-driven cultures start at the top

By Sheri L. Feinzig & Nigel Guenole

We’re in the middle of an analytics revolution. The change is being driven by numerous factors, but two are more important than the rest. The first is an explosion in the amount of valuable digital data generated by workers and consumers as they go about their daily lives. The second is advances in technology, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud-computing platforms that allow us to interpret and leverage all this data.

Yet, companies that excel at analytics have more than access to great data and technology. These companies recognize that success with analytics also requires an analytical mindset among its executives and an analytical culture throughout the business. In other words, it’s critical to bring the people along with the technology. There are two easy steps firms can take to do this.

Ensure that executives have strong analytics capabilities

It’s only when deep expertise exists among top leadership that a penchant for evidence-based decision-making will develop pervasively throughout the organization. Like any other discipline, becoming good at analytics requires seasoning and experience, which junior employees are unlikely to have. Another essential function requiring executive-level direction is the implementation of proper data governance.

Instead of delegating analytics responsibility to lower levels of the organization, it’s imperative to reserve a number of executive positions for people with genuine analytics expertise, and to propel people with the requisite knowledge and skills into higher ranks.

Develop routines that support analytical thinking

It’s also the routines we develop and the activities we engage in when making decisions that determine proficiency. Instead of letting habits and activities develop by chance, dedicate daily time for activities that create analytical habits.

Organizations that invest in senior-level expertise, and reinforce daily analytical activities will be best positioned to take full advantage of the data, and technology, that abound today, and will undoubtedly expand and evolve into the future.

Sheri L. Feinzig is a partner at IBM’s Global Business Services, Talent and Transformation practice, where Nigel Guenole is an associate partner. He is also director of research for the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.


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