6 principles to become a genuinely data driven company

An opinion piece by the data and insights consultant at Agilisys

May 19, 2022

4 Min Read

An opinion piece by the data and insights consultant at Agilisys

When used correctly, data and insights can reshape how decisions are made and revolutionise how knowledge is managed. But what exactly does it take to become genuinely data driven? Here are six key principles to guide enterprises on this journey.

1. Embrace an outcome-focused approach

Investing in better data is essential. However, unless it is improving outcomes through better decisions or more personalized support, that investment is likely to be wasted.

I have seen organizations trying to gather any data they can, cleanse it and hope patterns will emerge. When they do, the ensuing outcomes often disappoint with no plan of what to do with this information.

It’s far better to take an outcome-focused approach. In this way, the organization can exploit data properly and open the door to myriad activities with tangible outcomes.

To do so, the business needs to clarify what questions it wants answered and have a hypothesis for intervention. To that end, the organization must make sure it prepares the relevant data, cleanses it, overlays datasets, analyzes it and then looks for patterns that will allow it to answer any questions, target resources, and improve outcomes.

The key is to align investment in data and insight to organization priorities, know what questions you want answered, be purposeful, and not fall into the trap of doing data for data’s sake.

2. Data needs a seat at the table – at the top

For an organization to become intelligence-led, data needs to be treated as a strategic organisational asset. Equivalent assets generally have entire departments looking after them and a long-established presence at the top table.

Yet, it still remains rare for a strategic leader to be responsible for the organization’s data. Finances have board-level implications, so we expect to see a board-level CFO. Data can have an equally powerful role, yet CIOs and CDOs often remain in middle-management. Compelling leadership and a mandate for change are essential in changing how people work with and value data.

3. Create a buzz

Should you be focusing on quick wins or long-term outcomes for your data-led initiatives? The answer is both. Think about learning a new language. You start with essential words and phrases, and the early progress can be exciting. At this point, you generally begin to understand how the language works and choose what to develop next.

However, you know that you’ll only ever be fluent when you’ve mastered the foundations. To succeed, you need to balance the excitement of quick wins with building the foundations that enable you to advance.

Data programs are much the same. Quickly driving measurable value, for example, through insight use cases, is a prerequisite. It binds stakeholders, creates a buzz, and secures investment. In parallel though, it is important to understand the value in what might be considered a less glamorous side of the work, such as data cleansing, which is needed to build sustained success.

4. Set out a roadmap

Technology alone can’t solve all our data problems. Simply investing in technology and expecting it will be enough to set the organization on the path to becoming data-driven is not enough.

Yes, technology is a critical enabler that allows the analysis, storage, visualization, and sharing of data. However, successful data transformation requires a roadmap that defines technology and the people, their culture, skillsets, ways of working, and the processes that enable the improved use of data and insights.

These are much like a jigsaw puzzle – no two pieces are the same, but all are needed to complete the picture. Only by bringing technology, people and processes together will a modern, highly efficient genuinely data-driven organisation be created.

5. Make evidence-based decisions

To make the right decisions, it is important that organizations have objectivity and confidence. For that, they need knowledge based on tangible, solid evidence. The insights gained from data enables organizations to understand the context of their situation better and draw conclusions that can be turned into actions. Without it, decisions are based on assumptions and gut feel, which is rarely enough.

We need to continuously evaluate and appraise the data, the outcomes they drive, and refine the insights and actions that result. By doing so, it will lead to invaluable information that organizations can’t afford to miss.

6. Building the right foundation

A prime strategy to drive the greatest efficiencies is to predict problems ahead of time and create proactive solutions. Many organizations are starting to think in this way, for instance by predicting on an individual level when citizens’ needs for care will escalate and thus identify the point that costs of servicing those care needs will increase.

This type of approach requires analysts, machine learning, and AI technologies to analyze the data and make accurate predictions. Therefore, the success of these initiatives relies completely on the quality of the data that feeds into them. Creating a strong data foundation is fundamental to the ability of any public sector organization to drive the greatest cost efficiencies.

Following these six principles will go a long way to successfully transforming your organization into one that’s genuinely data driven so that you can improve the customer experience, gain greater internal credibility, and embark along the path to success.

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