Case Study: Establishing a Data-Literate Culture

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Imagine a rapidly expanding small business with a 20% yearly growth tasked with establishing and maintaining a data-literate culture. Then, add a new Data Architecture upgrade with considerable changes to the business logic to this situation, causing a full-on panic.

This journey, marked by confusion over data definitions and anxiety over system changes, describes the situation that Brooke Gajownik, director of data services, faced at Beck’s Hybrids. 

At DATAVERSITY’s Data Governance & Information Quality Conference, Gajownik spoke about how she transformed Beck’s Hybrids data headaches into a confident data culture. She expanded on her recommendations to build relationships, foster communication and education, and empower users through self-service.

Company Culture Forms the Backbone

Gajownik’s success story started with her understanding of Becks Hybrid’s corporate culture, which is its backbone. She noted that the company began in 1937 with two people and 80 acres. Today, Beck’s Hybrids is the third-largest retail seed company in the United States, with 15 facilities in 19 states.

She stated that keeping its family culture remains central to Beck’s Hybrids. Partnerships are taken very seriously, making the dealers extensions of Beck’s Hybrids’ core beliefs. These values include growing everything it needs, guaranteeing quality seeds, and helping farmers succeed.

When Beck’s Hybrids talks about growing everything it needs, that includes systems. “It jumps right in, creates software on its own, tries everything at once, and sees what happens,” said Gajownik.

As Gajownik talked about these experiences, she explained the context around Data Literacy adoption. She stressed in her strategy, “We plant a seed of data knowledge, water it with communication and education,” and watch Data Quality take off with successful partnerships.

Put the People Before the Data 

Applying cultural understanding means prioritizing the needs of individuals over the data and working within the organizational structure to identify use cases. At Beck’s Hybrids, the leadership team, which consists of the CEO, Sonny Beck, president Scott Beck, and three other members, has relied on analytical email reports as their primary source of truth since the late 1980s.

While high-level Tableau dashboards exist, executives express a strong preference for email reports instead. They are more familiar with and trust this format. Gajownik explained:

“The leadership team cares that the information hits their inbox as an email and reads correctly. They do not care where the data has come from to get to this email. Instead, they hire data advocates – subject matter experts (SMEs) with a deep understanding of the business and technology – to make the magic happen. Then the leadership can look at it, trust it, and move on with their decisions.”

These data advocates, who hold managerial positions across major departments, take responsibility for delivering accurate and quality data to support executive decision-making. Gajownik’s prioritization of “people before the project and before the data” enables her to understand Data Literacy needs and address them effectively.

Planting a Seed of Data Knowledge

When fostering relationships, Gajownik advised:

“People want to connect and know they are not forced to do something. Instead, ask them to collaborate and be a part of it. Talk with anyone and everyone in the hall and have personal communication where you care about them.”

To Gajownik and her team, this relationship-building work and caring – through fixing and releasing reports and educating the business about data – represents seeds of data knowledge.

Growing Data Knowledge with Communication and Education

In a large company, transparency and communicating the meaning of data are essential for answering questions and fostering Data Literacy. These requirements become particularly evident when Gajownik and her team address internal customer data reporting issues. The data services team must comprehensively understand the data lineage, tracing its origin back to the table where it is stored.

To upskill the business, Gajownik works closely to educate, plan, and lead them through the Data Governance Initiative. This initiative formalizes and enforces organizational data activities, including training. Gajownik said:

“Through this training, we engage the business cross-functionally and leverage their subject expertise to enhance Data Literacy. Our goal is to provide individuals from various departments, such as logistics, with the opportunity to take online classes tailored to their specific needs. They can also explore other aspects, like production data, if they are curious.”

Beck’s Hybrids implements educational software to effectively communicate and deliver Data Literacy classes to employees. Gajownik’s team has introduced newer courses specifically designed to cover Data Governance and reporting content, which now play an integral role in onboarding.

Watch Data Literacy Grow with Transparency

Beck’s Hybrids continues to expand its Data Literacy messaging and its importance with its dealers and partners. According to Gajownik, the company’s approach includes:

  • Going out to field sales meetings and the salespeople to talk about why Data Literacy is important and to train them how to use the data
  • Meeting with the dealers and helping them succeed with Data Literacy, as they are an extension of Beck’s Hybrid’s core values and beliefs

Gajownik circled back to the dealers, the core of Beck’s Hybrid’s success and values. She described how the company partnered with Data Galaxy to help these farmers get insights into their data.

Through Data Galaxy, a tool extending Beck’s Hybrid’s core values through easy collaboration, “partners dealers strengthen each other in their data knowledge,” said Gajownik. The platform connects stakeholders to Beck’s Hybrids data planning and activity – including its educational content and outstanding user experience.

She said, “I want to have an easy product that we can get in front of our people (employees, partners, and dealers) so they can collaborate with us about the data.” She also chose Data Galaxy to invest in an agile way to co-build products with data that accelerates growth for everyone.

Enabling Self-Service with a Common Language

Gajownik acknowledged that Beck’s Hybrids has a big challenge in enabling self-service because of all the fast company growth. To enable their customers, Gajownik engages a team of technical business partners that sits between the tech team and the business. They help the business look up, understand, and use shared data terminology in their working context, with references like a business glossary and a data dictionary

Technical business partners also record requirements, raise awareness of issues, and assist with the software development of a Data Management application. With this arrangement, employees, partners, and dealers understand the data definitions and have better conversations with the data services team. Everyone gets what they want in the form of Data Literacy.

Having a data warehouse as a single source of truth, especially after the logic changes in 2022, has played a key role in getting this Data Literacy. The warehouse keeps expectations from report requests consistent. At the same time, the business glossary extends out from the data warehouse logic as a version of the source of truth.

Gajownik said:

 “We want our customers to own their data, not just what they think they know about it, but actually put in those definitions, ask for reports, and be truly self-serviceable. We want them to speak that common language, along with the visibility of the data.”


Beck’s Hybrids succeeded in its Data Literacy efforts by putting the people before the data. Gajownik applied her understanding of the family culture, her connection with growing products and solutions, and her value of partnerships to do this.

She plants a seed of Data Literacy knowledge from these relationships, waters it with communication and education, and watches the Data Literacy grow. She wants to see her users self-sufficient with her Data Literacy initiatives so they can thrive and excel at their jobs. With this Data Literacy, the company gets the insights it needs, while the data magic happens within the culture that Beck’s Hybrids built.

Want to learn more about DATAVERSITY’s upcoming events, including DGIQ this June? Check out our current lineup of online and face-to-face conferences here.

Here is the video of the DGIQ presentation: