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6 steps to building a big data culture that works

How to build a big data culture

We want organizations to succeed with data. But succeeding with data isn’t just a matter of putting some Hadoop in your machine room, or hiring some physicists with crazy math skills. Succeeding with data requires real cultural change. It requires learning how to have a discussion about the data — how to hear what the data might be saying, rather than just enlisting it as a weapon in company politics. Simply adding a few data scientists, though very critical to the process, just won’t make the cut anymore. Data, needs to be spread throughout the organization by enabling every individual to access the data and see what they can learn. Big data has to become a part of your culture to reap its benefits. Here are six steps to building a big data culture in your organization. 1) Set goals for your big data initiative Before you start building a big data culture, you must be clear on what exactly you want to achieve through the big data initiative. What are the business outcomes? What are your expectations? What key areas of the business would you like to enhance using big data analytics? Instead of talking to everyone in your firm about the big data initiative, first talk to a small group of people in your firm to develop an initial direction of the project. Go through the case studies of companies in your space that have successfully executed a big data strategy. What challenges did they face and what key metrics did they track? Do an in-depth research and document all the activities they did to launch a big data strategy. This will give you more clarity on how to begin your big data journey and make you better equipped to convince others. Ensure that the outcome of your big data project is aligned with your company’s goals, so that even the decision makers will take your projects more seriously. 2) Get key people on board Begin your big data journey with a small project. That project will help you to understand what is involved in this new approach to analytics and decision making. You will need to create a group of stakeholders for this project. This should include people from the division to which the project pertains, as well as people from other divisions who have a secondary role in the project. For instance, if it’s a marketing project, you would naturally need to involve the marketing head and key people from the marketing team but you might also need to involve people from your IT team and product team. To expedite the success of your big data project, the senior leadership of the company will need to be involved. An Economist Intelligence Unit Report from 2015 indicated that the ownership of corporate data strategy has been migrating upwards. While big data projects were earlier being owned by executives at the business unit level, more and more CIOs and CEOs are taking ownership. Ownership at a C-suite level makes it far easier to get something done. The key stakeholders will be responsible for executing the big data project as well as act as champions for creating a big data culture. In time you should create roles for people with specialized expertise who will take care of big data projects. Many organizations are creating a C-Level role of Chief Data Officer. 3) Make everyone excited about big data Not everyone in your company will be involved in your initial big data project. However, it is important that everyone should begin to take decisions that are based on data. This is very crucial when you begin your big data journey. To do this, you have to make them understand about the importance of big data. Don’t just state the facts about the benefits of big data. Appeal to people’s emotions and address how it will make their jobs easier and help them grow in their careers. Make them feel safe about the transition. Make them feel excited about the possibilities that big data will bring – for the company and for themselves. Encourage people who believe in a data-driven approach and who truly appreciate the power of data analytics, and reward them when they adopt this approach in their daily work. 4) Educate To create a big data culture, you will need to systematically educate your people about its benefits. Big data will make people’s work a lot easier, eliminate guesswork and reduce waste. Create a formal mechanism to train the people who will be directly involved in the big data project. To create a culture of big data, you can’t limit yourself to only the people involved in the project. They will need the support of their colleagues across the organization to make it a success. Before people extend their support, they will need to appreciate the importance of big data. That’s why you need to educate everyone. Get influencers on board to play the role of big data champions. They will have to formally train people as well as informally build a big data culture across the company. 5) Know how to handle objections Your company’s past success was not based on big data analytics. Most people are used to making decisions based on gut-feelings and past experiences. Many people might still perceive big data analytics as just another transient trend, and hence will be reluctant to adopt it. Therefore, be ready to face a lot of criticism and scepticism about what big data can do. Since it requires using technology that they aren’t used to, people are not very enthusiastic about warming up to big data. They are also hesitant about sharing data with other departments. You must also know what senior leaders in your company feel about big data, whether they think of it as an asset or liability or just another fad. 6) Derive insights and take action Once you start to get insights from your big data analytics project, you need to take action based on those insights. You must also communicate with others on how this big data project has enhanced the decision making process.  That will motivate people to adopt a data-driven approach. Conclusion Each and every person, whether they are or aren’t involved in your project, should see data as an asset. Everyone needs to think of data as a crucial component to their professional success. This should start with the senior level executives. The senior management people should start taking data-driven decisions. They should also insist mid-level managers to support all their reports and presentations with data. In this way, you can create an effective big data culture in your organisation. If you have any questions on creating a big data culture please let me know in the comments section!

Manu Jeevan

Manu Jeevan is a self-taught data scientist and loves to explain data science concepts in simple terms. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, or email him at manu@bigdataexaminer.com.
Manu Jeevan
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