Becoming a Data-Driven Organisation in 4 Steps

By Steve Neat

Published on November 17, 2022

A group of four business people sitting around a desk with their laptops as one of them shakes another's hand.

Everyone talks about it, everyone wants it. But what does it mean for an organisation to be truly data-driven? What foundation needs to be in place at the start, and what journey does an organisation need to embrace to benefit from the forensic insights their data can reveal?

On the surface, it might seem easy to one day decide that a whole organisation will be data-driven, but unless everyone in the business buys into the idea, organisations might be in for a shock. Becoming data-driven requires that people understand what data-driven means, and that the right people are in place to govern, maintain, and analyse the data.

So, let’s start at the beginning of this journey and establish step by step what it means to be truly data-driven.

Step 1 – Be clear about your business objectives

First, what are your business objectives? Organisations should be very clear about what benefits they expect from becoming data-driven, but also what the implications might be and what resources will be needed to implement change.

But let’s start with the benefits, because they are manifold. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, data-driven businesses have a higher likelihood of:

  • Acquiring consumers (23 times higher)

  • Keeping those customers (6 times)

  • Being profitable (19 times)

Being more data-driven means the right people have access to the right data at the right time and are therefore enabled to make faster and better-informed decisions.

However, implementing and executing the required steps to reach this point can be challenging — it doesn’t happen without the right people, the right processes, and the right technology. So how do you get all of this right?

Step 2 – Make sure everyone is on board

Being data-driven means that people across your organisation understand what data the organisation has, where to find it, and how to use it with the tools they have available. This requires:

  • Data is embedded into the processes of the organisation.

  • An expectation that people attend meetings to discuss and make decisions with the correct data already found and prepared.

  • Setting the expectation that key business decisions must be informed by data; they can no longer be made on gut feel alone.

Yet to get everyone on board, the data itself must be trustworthy, reliable, and understood by the people within the organisation.

This is where it often gets tricky.

The challenge, faced by the many organisations accumulating “data” for 50 years or more, is making that data available. With multiple technology systems accumulating large amounts of data, where do you get reliable data? And how do you direct the right people to the right data at the right time?

The unfortunate truth is that most people don’t like change and will revert to the often-unreliable spreadsheets they’ve been using for many years. Additionally, purging your organisation of untrustworthy data, so only reliable, well-understood, and trustworthy data remains, is one of the hardest things to get right. Therefore, getting everyone on board with the changes that are happening is your key to success on the journey to becoming truly data-driven.

In order to secure buy-in from everyone across your organisation, make sure to have resources in place to conduct a thorough onboarding for new technologies, enabling everyone to be confident data users and advocates for new platforms and processes.

Ensure that all data users, from top to bottom, have a clear and logical understanding of the “why,, focusing on short- and long-term business success, as well as the accountability every employee will have for carrying out their own roles and responsibilities.

Finding the right data at the right time to make informed decisions will help the business grow and succeed and remove the pain points many might have felt prior to having a centralised data system — a win-win situation everyone in the organisation will benefit from.

Virgin Australia Group grew their business, and saw the IT organization balloon, as well.

  • Before: Heavily siloed architecture and communication gaps between the lines of business. Executives got inconsistent information from different areas, which made decision-making challenging.

  • After: With Alation as the one-stop source of truth, the Data Platforms team established a new framework, applying standards, policies, and glossaries to their data at the point of use.

  • Now, all data users work from common definitions, and their access is governed by shared policies.

Virgin Australia Group was in such a situation. As the business grew, so did their IT infrastructure. Historically, business units addressed their growing technology needs independently, which led to a heavily siloed architecture and communication gaps between the different lines of business. Executives were getting inconsistent information from different areas of the business, which made decision-making challenging.

When Virgin Australia’s Data Platforms team began investigating these disparities, they knew exactly what needed to be done, their goals, and the steps they needed to take. Turning to Alation for a data catalog as the one-stop source of truth, the Data Platforms team established a new framework by applying standards, policies, and glossaries to their data at the point of consumption. Now, everyone who uses data at Virgin Australia will works from a common set of definitions, and their data access is governed by a carefully developed set of policies.

Step 3 – Implement the right tools for quick wins

The implementation of a data cataloguing system is often associated with a much larger shift within the business. Very rarely will a business implement one in isolation. In fact, becoming more data-driven usually requires several new strategic initiatives.

How will the business measure success? While employees may have been clamouring to become data-driven for a long time, it rarely happens without one of these larger decisions being made by a more senior executive who allocates the resources and funding. In fact, without executive buy-in, becoming data-driven becomes an academic task. This is why documenting quick wins and early returns is key. You need this evidence to make the case to the c-suite that this is a worthy investment

So how do you ensure quick wins?

Cloud data migration is a use case that can become a quick win. Organisations that migrate enjoy more flexibility and cost-effective consumption. Cloud migration is also a vital path to minimise potential risk to the business. Yet to migrate successfully, data teams must have a firm grasp on what data they have and what data is most valuable to move. In this way, what you migrate and how can make or break your success.

Moving from on-premises data warehousing technology to a more modern cloud-based one requires cataloguing the data that exists and prioritising what data needs to be moved. That way, data appearing in the cloud environment is much easier to access. This is an incredibly quick win that would likely prove the value of the transition.

Step 4 – Embrace the ongoing learning curve

Becoming a data-driven organisation is not just a case of implementing new technology or even a data catalog — it is a people and process journey, too. Technology is simply the enabler. Having the right data culture is greater proof of a data-driven organisation —especially if that culture is championed by senior executives.

The transformation to a data-driven organisation requires delivering value early. Therefore, you need a strategic initiative, underpinned by new technology, and supported by not just a data catalog, but the correct level of stewardship, governance, and investment in people.

Alation Data Catalog is designed to facilitate this transformation by enabling an agile approach to data within your organisation. Especially in the EMEA region, where data governance is tightly regulated, you want to store, maintain, access, and analyse data in compliance while giving the right people access to the right data at the right time.

As the world leading data catalog, Alation streamlines the journey to becoming a more data-driven organisation.

  • Step 1 – Be clear about your business objectives
  • Step 2 – Make sure everyone is on board
  • Step 3 – Implement the right tools for quick wins
  • Step 4 – Embrace the ongoing learning curve
Tagged with