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Taking a closer look: Defining company culture

Justin Langford

Welcome to the second part of this series on creating data cultures. Last time, I looked at how you can tell if your business needs to adopt a new data culture. I also introduced some of the core themes I’ll be examining now, including the role of executive sponsors.


As I discussed in that introduction to this series, it’s useful to think of your business as an orchestra and the people within it as musicians. For this post, I’m going to stick with that analogy, taking a closer look at how you can best articulate your company culture and integrate data to enhance your business strategy. 


Let your conductor lead the way 

In an orchestra, every individual has a part to play, but the conductor leads the entire production. Their job is to make sure everyone is doing their part and that they’re working together in harmony. 

When thinking about your company’s data culture, your conductor is your executive sponsor. This is a person in a position of authority in your business, with the authority and the motivation to make things happen. They’re the role model for your whole business, and it’s up to them to provide the central vision to make your data strategy work. Without their sponsorship, your attempts to drive change with data may not realise the full potential, with no long-term plan to follow.


Try to achieve harmony 

The organisation of orchestras is important too. They aren’t seated randomly when they play together but are grouped into different sections, each with its own function and responsibilities.

It’s the same with the business units and teams within your organisation. Although each of the groups is different to the next, their approach to data should be coordinated, with the aim being to build a coherent, meaningful whole. Whether they work in sales, finance, IT or operations, you need everyone pulling in the same direction, benefiting from a unified data platform and delivering results.  


Play with the end in mind 

Building an effective data culture is like composing and performing a symphony. You need to hear the tune in your head before you can start writing the music, and then you need to rehearse, getting better and better over time.

In the same way, defining your company culture means thinking about what you want to achieve first. You need clarity when it comes to your business goals and objectives. And you need to be able to answer the questions that matter most, like what role you want data to play in growing your business.

Then, with your plans in place, you can start putting them into action – starting with early trials and building up.  


Get advocates singing the praises of data 

Every successful data culture needs advocates. These are like the vocalists in your orchestra, articulating what you want to say about data to onlookers, in the most appealing way possible. In practical terms, this means identifying friendly users who are vocal, and involving them in the early phases of plans with lighthouse or pilot projects.

Their experiences and advocacy can be the perfect basis for internal communications and PR, creating energy around your data projects and outcomes. By demonstrating and highlighting the benefits of data, you can encourage interest in your project and drive uptake.  


Do what’s right for your needs 

There’s no doubt that the musicians in an orchestra demonstrate great skills, technique and knowledge – but that means nothing if they don’t collaborate toward the right goals. Your attitude towards data should be the same.

Instead of technical success, you should define clear business success criteria. For example, rather than aiming to get all your data in one place for the sake of it, you should think about how changes to your data culture can actually benefit your business. Maybe it could help you to monitor and measure for compliance? Or identify the best place to open a new store or launch a new product? 


Next time around 

Keep an eye out for part three of this series: ‘Learning fast: Starting small and iterating’. I’ll be looking at how you can build up an effective data culture in your business through a step-by-step approach.  


See you next time!

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