Data Culture: The Key to Becoming Data-Driven

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Read more about author Victor Dudemaine.

The volume of data that individuals and businesses generate is growing rapidly. We have all heard how data is doubling every two years or that 90% of all data was created in the last two years. With this hockey stick-like growth, the complexity and variety of data are creating further issues for CDOs and data professionals. Making sense of all this data and adding value to a business’s bottom line is fast becoming problematic. Only companies focused on improving their data culture can leverage it to create real value. And frankly, that is why most CDOs are focused on this important – if not the most important – element, in their goal to becoming a data-driven company. According to a survey by Gartner, chief data officers (CDOs) today consider data-driven culture as their number one priority.

Data Culture and Its Importance to Your Organization

Data culture prioritizes the use of data in every decision made within an organization. From the CEO down, the use of data is woven into their fabric, arguing and discussing business problems through a fact-based lens that is derived from data.

Having this data culture allows all employees to participate in business solutioning, removing the traditional hierarchical-based cultures of the past. Equal footing allows unprecedented engagement and collaboration across divisions, providing a richer and more motivated employee experience.

Critical Elements of Data Culture

Below are six elements that are essential to developing a data culture.

Senior-Level Support

To shift a firm’s data culture in a meaningful way, there must be commitment at both the CEO and board level. The manifestation of that commitment must be transparent and must be part of an ongoing dialog with everyone in the firm. Organizations that are led by executives who understand the importance of data and who use data themselves in their day-to-day activities can accelerate their path toward becoming data leaders. 

Human Resources

A critical and almost always forgotten element in changing to a data culture is your human resources department. You must leverage their skill sets and your understanding of data to ensure there is a career path for data and analytics resources that join the firm. A healthy data culture is curated within the organization by design, not organically. It is managed so that there are clear roles and responsibilities for each team and role within the company.


Data culture can be quickly canceled or sabotaged by simple language. Faster, flexible, and quality are words that executives use when they feel threatened by data culture. Because what are you answering? There is no context to help have a data-driven discussion on them.

  • Fast? Faster than what?
  • Flexible? Compared to what benchmark are you flexible?
  • Cost-effective? Compared to what?
  • Data Quality? What is your measure? Is it accuracy, frequency, completeness, uniqueness?

Detractors of data culture will use these words and as others try to explain them, meaning is changed, or manipulated in a way to demonstrate the shortcomings of the new approaches.

Data Literacy

Create education programs that are targeted to each major level of the organization. Provide them with use cases that are meaningful and have a business focus that can be related to in their day-to-day workday. By training resources with clear examples that affect them in their current roles, you draw them into the discussion and captivate them with the “Art of the Possible.”

Democratization of Data

Allow people the freedom to explore data, to have the ability to pivot data in ways that don’t seem reasonable but could in the end produce wildly positive results for the organization. Careful thought must be given to privacy and compliance regulations along with Intellectual Property of the firm.


Technology can have a significant effect on your data culture. It is up to each firm to understand how many technologies they will allow for visualization or dashboarding. Suppose you have four or five technologies that support those capabilities. In that case, you are limited in moving resources to other areas of the organization because each division is using their own set of tools. 

The Future of Data Culture

Data culture is a composition of people, process, and technology and the interaction of these three components. When you empower teams to leverage data and provide them access to data, they will prove to you how powerful a force this is. On a global scale, we have witnessed the rise of organizations that exploit data to improve revenue, reduce costs, improve customer experience, and improve product maintenance. Data-driven organizations have outpaced those that are lower on the data culture maturity curve. The question you now face is how you move your organization to leverage data in a meaningful way.

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