Businesses need to develop ‘data champions’ among their staff

With massive volumes of data now at their disposal, generated from a range of different touch-points and sources, today are under a lot of pressure to leverage it to make key business decisions.

That pressure is warranted, and using data to back business decisions is becoming vital for keeping up in competitive, tech-driven industries. McKinsey has found that high-performing companies have greater data analytics capabilities than their peers – and that’s not at all surprising.

If businesses wish to succeed, data needs to be integrated into every operational process and positioned as the key enabler of business functions. 

Thankfully, more companies are realizing that now, and have directed efforts towards building a data-driven operational culture by increasing data accessibility, contextualizing data to tell insightful stories and adopting advanced analytics capabilities to process data.

What’s becoming apparent, however, is that despite investments made into data analytics capabilities, many businesses are struggling under the volumes of data they have, and are overwhelmed when it comes to utilizing it for insights, on-the-fly. 

Jane Crofts, founder of Data to the People and author of Databilities, believes that the issue comes down to the workforce as a whole being left on the sideline of data-led initiatives.

“The money has already been invested in the systems and tools,” Crofts said. Clearly, the focus now should be angled at equipping the workforce with the “skills and competencies to read, write and comprehend data in their organizational context.”

To truly build data analytics capabilities, companies need to make sure that awareness is established, data literacy is fostered, and a data-first mindset is achieved. 

“Data literacy gives an individual the power to see through the numbers, find the meaning and connect the dots; a data-literate individual has the ability to understand, communicate and create new value from the data they’ve been able to collect or access,” Crofts told Tech Wire Asia.

More importantly, companies need to tap into the collective brainpower of their workforce and reward their curiosity. Only then can companies encourage their people to actively leverage data and analytics in driving better decisions and pioneering new initiatives. 

Or else, companies will end up burdening the workforce with accountability that they’re not prepared to fulfill.

At the same time, it’s also key for companies to find hidden talents or ‘data champions’ their workforce – those who can be key in supporting and encouraging the use of data in daily operations. 

These champions can help augment organization-wide efforts in measuring current performance levels and bridging skill gaps before the company can proceed to chart the next steps in scaling up capabilities.

Achieving holistic data analytics capabilities is essentially a continuous learning process where the workforce has to be consistently empowered with the right knowledge and skills. Since the core idea here is building a culture, turning to data and making gradual improvements have to be made an organizational habit.

Crofts explained: “Fostering a data literate organization and embracing a data-driven mindset and culture goes far beyond the presentation of new dashboards and metrics at the next leadership meeting, and much further than rolling out access to self-serve data and reporting platforms to all employees.

“It involves questioning the current practices, systems, beliefs and rituals that have shaped the culture of the organization, and rebuilding them.”

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