Creating a Corporate Data Culture

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A new corporate model is quickly emerging. The crusade is being led by young and nimble companies that are not weighed down by legacy IT systems and are capable of infusing data into the decisions their managers make daily. In this new paradigm, data becomes central to innovation and to all decision making, fueling growth and making the organization’s operations more efficient.

Getting There From Here

Established organizations won’t become data-centric overnight. The first step calls for recognizing that the shift toward data is indeed a journey. It begins with the wholehearted commitment of the CEO, plus concrete actions and accountability from the company’s senior management. 

Three factors need immediate attention:

  1. Reskilling the organization
    A recent study revealed that only one-third of companies can effectively use the data they collect to assist in their decision making, gain a competitive advantage, drive productivity growth, yield innovations and reveal customer insights. The biggest reason for this is because the business demand for data expertise has quickly outpaced the supply of data-savvy talent.

    To create a data culture, data competency needs to become a core competency for employees at all levels. It’s as simple as this: If the data is expected to drive decisions, the teams making those decisions must possess the skills to utilize the data. As a result, companies need to explore and determine what data literacy means, how it can be evaluated and rewarded, how it can be woven into future hiring criteria and training programs, and how it can be positioned as a widely regarded driver of career progress. 
  1. Appointing a data champion
    For a corporate data culture to exist, the enterprise must experience a significant transformation of technology, organization, talent and incentives. This begins with the addition of a chief data officer to the C-suite lineup (as many state and federal governments have already done).

    Companies need to move beyond IT data management—and such activities as remediation, data cleaning and compliance—to appointing individuals who will champion the strategic use of data at every level, while also serving as a bridge between IT and the business. 
  1. Redefining relationships with partners. Companies need to rethink their partnership agreements when it comes to data. This involves reevaluating current relationships in light of the value of the data already being shared. Enterprises need to explore issues such as what data the organization is going to collect and from where; how it’s going to be collected; and how will be used.

    The process begins with placing value on the data—and the more widely used the data set, the more valuable it becomes. Data valuation will also affect the ways data is stored, shared, published, secured and destroyed. 

Farsighted executives realize that data is quickly becoming a strategic asset for the future growth of their business. In their organizations, in fact, data is on a fast track to becoming the next core competency. Achieving this transformation will be as much about culture and mind-set as technology, with the top of the organization responsible for leading and galvanizing it.

Mike Redding is global managing director of the Accenture Technology Labs.

This article was originally published on 2012-10-26
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