The Role Of Leaders In Driving Data Culture


The Role Leaders Can Play In Building Data-Driven Environment Within Organization

In a business climate characterized by data abundance, ambiguity and complexity, the most powerful form of competitive advantage is information. The ability to derive intelligence from data makes organizations more agile, efficient, and responsive. According to Forrester Research, organizations that are advanced in their insight driven business capabilities are 8 times more likely to be growing at 20% Y-O-Y than the beginners.

This means Business Intelligence (BI) has a great potential to drive value for organizations looking to build this competitive edge, especially with self-service BI solutions in place. However, one of the biggest roadblocks in becoming truly data driven is the culture change within an organization.

Organization culture changes much slowly than technology and long-held biases that favor instincts over information are quite challenging to overcome.

The leadership team can play a significant role in building a data driven culture. Leaders need to emphasize the importance of data time and again to change an existing, non-data-driven paradigm. This cultural shift needs to be driven from the top down.

There are several ways senior leaders can bring this culture shift and create data literacy and data curiosity among their teams:

Drive Meetings with Data: If done right, this is one of the most effective and productive ways to make the team value data approach. Meetings can become a waste of time and resources if the same conversation is being held every time without visible results. There are useful pointers to drive successful data driven meetings –

  • Prepare and distribute data in advance: It’s best to share the data, to be discussed, in advance with the stakeholders. This will give them time to validate the data with the correct data source or owner of the data, align their thoughts to discuss the data in meeting, and result in everyone’s buy-in on the data beforehand.  Such meetings promote transparency and become more productive centering on causes and actions rather than data validation.
  • Establish meeting protocols: Provide pre-meeting agenda to the attendees and communicate your expectation to them. The key objective is to come out with actionable items for everyone. As you drive the meeting, a leader is expected to lead by example, by coming prepared with answers to ‘What Now?” questions based on the data to be discussed.
  • Break the stereotypes: As a business leader what matters most is, your team sees value in taking data driven approach to solving business problems. For that it is not always important to conduct meetings in formal set ups and closed environment. Quick stand-up meetings or one-on-one meetings every now and then to review the data and get status on work-in-progress is good to bring out desired results. In fact, putting out big screens in central areas of office displaying your data or living dashboards eliminates the need of a formal meeting. As a leader you can ensure that the data is worked upon to achieve the strategic goal or initiative.

Build Data Curiosity: Leaders should encourage their teams to persistently seek new or existing data to ask questions, to explore or to solve business problems that relate to their daily tasks and goals. Allow the end users to make the data insightful for their use by structuring your data in an easy-to-understand format.

Another way of building data curiosity is to encourage all stakeholders to share feedback on each other’s data by taking surveys. Post survey conversations will improve data quality by helping everyone identify flaws in the datasets and taking corrective measures.

Break Down Silos: Leaders must promote collaboration with other departments on cross-department data. Several times stakeholders are unable to take informed decisions because departments withhold information fearing data leak. It is important to identify silos within departments or teams and begin communicating with them about sharing data.

It is easier to begin with groups or individuals whose roles will be enhanced by breaking down silos and tap into their enthusiasm to bring about sharing data. Explaining teams from different departments how they can together meet goals based on data can bring about the mindset change.

Self-Service BI: Decision makers must understand the value a self-service BI solution can bring in building a data-driven culture. It not only provides an integrated platform to transform the data into actionable insights but also provides ease-of-use with minimal intervention from IT or Data Analysts. Figuratively, it is as simple as downloading an app from play store or more like a plug and play tool.

BI stakeholders can measure important KPIs in a single dashboard and can easily customize them with an ad-hoc metric at an instant business requirement. This ease-of-use encourages more and more stakeholders in the organization from top down to adopt BI for prioritizing their day-to-day tasks and taking informed business decisions.

Though it’s critical that the leaders act as catalyst between data and the end BI users and help build data literacy among stakeholders, it’s advisable to leave the last mile of insight delivery up to the final users, be it another one from leadership team himself. That ways leaders will be able to solve multiple business problems at a single time encouraging data curiosity among the end users.


– Vinita Sudhir