Foster a ‘data culture’ to create value

While many organisations are investing in technology and using data in their day-to-day operations, most are still struggling to derive meaningful business insights from all the data they're collecting.

Shaheen Saud, National Lead – Data Analytics and Insights says if companies want to add value through data-driven insights, then they need to embrace data in a systemic way. They need to foster a data culture.

We asked Shaheen to explain.

QWhat do you mean by a data culture?

It’s about putting data at the centre of an organisation. It’s about understanding all its applications and its value. It’s creating systems that are interconnected so information can be seamlessly collected, used and shared. It’s about everyone being onboard. If employees can’t see the value or leadership are unconvinced, then the data will be sub-standard or incomplete - and any analysis won’t produce the types of insights that lead to better outcomes.

QWhat are common mistakes preventing data from being fully utilised?

There are various reasons why data initiatives fail.

  • Not having a well-defined data strategy or a pragmatic roadmap – there’s no vision for leveraging data effectively.
  • Organisational (and data) silos – where, for example, departments or divisions run almost separately and in some circumstances are using different tools and software.
  • Lack of talent – not having key personnel to understand what platforms and data best serve an organisation and its priorities, or to drive programs, or engage with teams, or receive feedback to modify initiatives.
  • Lack of leadership.
  • There are other reasons, but in essence, the fatal flaw is a lack of a data culture.
QHow do you create a data culture then?

I believe there are three guiding principles.

The first is data literacy, where each person in the organisation understands data - why it’s collected, how it’s used, and uses it too. It’s about ongoing education too.

The second is creating a data community where there is advocacy, collaboration, engagement, and innovation around data. It isn’t static – it’s an ongoing conversation where there are options, feedback and sharing of knowledge.

And finally, data design. When designing a data system – to collect and analyse – the end-use must be in mind. Why are you collecting the data? For what purpose? To achieve what end? The why must drive the whole process.

QWhat tips, programs or advice do you give organisations wanting to establish these principles?

To begin, you need to do a comprehensive analysis of where you stand right now. What systems do you currently use? Are they outdated or are they suited to your industry or goals?

Then you need to engage with the business and find out the types of information they believe should be collected. Ask what would help them do their job better. For example, is it AI technology that’s needed to collate basic data to save time manually entering in data points?

When a lot of information is collected and known – a picture will emerge of what an organisation needs and that can be matched with the right software and systems.

QCan you provide an example where you’ve seen a company embrace a data culture and what were the results?

When you think about organisations that have greatly benefited from a data-driven culture, it’s hard to go past tech companies like Amazon and Google. Amazon has leveraged data to its advantage in several ways, including improving its customer service and recommendation engine. In addition, Amazon has also turned to data to help it become one of the leading eCommerce platforms in the world.

Similarly, Google has leveraged data and insights to optimise its search engine, advertising products as well as develop new products such as Google Maps and Gmail.

Closer to home, RPS recently worked with a local council in Melbourne to assist with its planning process so it can grow and develop in a sustainable way.

We undertook a range of community consultation acitivties and collected and analysed the information obtained through the process. We provided council with a software solution to easily access data points and insights via an interactive dashboard for the project.  

From the outset, the council embraced the role of data by ensuring it had the right technology to collect and collate information. Setting up these systems at the beginning of the project means the council is well positioned to continue to make evidence-based planning and development decisions moving forward.

In these examples, data is at the heart of the organisations and projects - and therefore central to how they engage their customers, develop products or services, and make decisions.

Shaheen Saud

National Lead - Data Analytics and Insights


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