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Four Steps to Building a Data-Driven Culture

Jul 22, 2020 by Mariann McDonagh

Four Steps to Building a Data-Driven Culture

Fostering organizational support for a data-driven culture might require a change in the organization’s culture. But how?

Recently, I co-hosted a webinar with our client E.ON, a global energy company that reinvented how it conducts business from branding to customer engagement – with data as the conduit.

There’s no doubt E.ON, based in Essen, Germany, has established one of the most comprehensive and successful data governance programs in modern business.

For E.ON, data governance is not just about data management but also about using information to increase efficiencies. The company needed to help its data scientists and engineers improve their knowledge of the data, find the best data for use at the best time, and put the data in the most appropriate business context.

As an example, E.ON was able to improve data quality, detect redundancies, and create a needs-based, data-use environment by applying a common set of business terms across the enterprise.

Avoiding Hurdles

Businesses have not been able to get as much mileage out of their data governance efforts as hoped, chiefly because of how it’s been handled. And data governance initiatives sometimes fail because organizations tend to treat them as siloed IT programs rather than multi-stakeholder imperatives.

Even when business groups recognize the value of a data governance program and the potential benefits to be derived from it, the IT group traditionally has owned the effort and paid for it.

Despite enterprise-wide awareness of the importance of data governance, a troublingly large number of organizations continue to stumble because of a lack of executive support.

IT and the business will need to take responsibility for selling the benefits of data governance across the enterprise and ensure all stakeholders are properly educated about it.

IT may have to go it alone, at least initially, educating the business on the risks and rewards of data governance and the expectations and accountabilities in implementing it. The business needs to have a role in the justification.

Being a Change Agent

Becoming a data-driven enterprise means making decisions based on facts. It requires a clear vision, strategy and disciplined execution. It also must be well thought out, understood and communicated to others – from the C-suite on down.

For E.ON, the board supported and drove a lot of the thinking that data has to be at the center of everything to reimagine the company. But the data team still needed to convince the head of every one of the company’s hundreds of legal entities to support the digital transformation journey. As a result, the team went on a mission to spread the message.

“The biggest challenge was change management — convincing people to be part of the journey. It is very often underestimated,” said Romina Medici, E.ON’s Program Manager for Data Management and Governance. “Technology is logical, so you can always understand it. Culture is more complex and more diverse.”

She said that ultimately the “communication (across the organization) was bottom up and top down.”

Four Steps to Building a Data-Driven Culture

1. Accelerate Time to Value: Data governance isn’t a one-off project with a defined endpoint. It’s an on-going initiative that requires active engagement from executives and business leaders. The ability to make faster decisions based on data is one way to make the organization pay attention.

2. Ensure Company-Wide Compliance: Compliance isn’t just about government regulations. In today’s business environment, we’re all data people. Everyone in the organization needs to commit to data compliance to ensure high-quality data.

3. Demand Trusted Insights Based on Data Truths: To make smart decisions, you can’t have multiple sets of numbers. Everyone needs to be in lockstep, using and basing decisions on the same data.

4. Foster Data-Driven Collaboration: We call this “social data governance,” meaning you foster collaboration across the business, all the time. 

A data-driven approach has never been more valuable to addressing the complex yet foundational questions enterprises must answer. Organizations that have their data management, data governance and data intelligence houses in order are much better positioned to respond to challenges and thrive moving forward.

As demonstrated by E.ON, data-driven cultures start at the top – but need to proliferate up and down, even sideways.

Business transformation has to be based on accurate data assets within the right context, so organizations have a reliable source of truth on which to base their decisions.

erwin provides a with the data catalog, lineage, glossary and visualization capabilities needed to evaluate the business in its current state and then evolve it to serve new objectives.

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