Press Release • December 17, 2020

Alation State of Data Culture Report Reveals Enterprises Struggle to Plan for 2021

COVID-19 depletes tribal knowledge, creates anomalous data

Redwood City, Calif. – December 8, 2020 – With 2020 finally coming to a close, organizations enter 2021 with uncertainty about their planning. In the new quarterly Alation State of Data Culture Report out today, 96% say their companies have lost critical tribal knowledge from staffing changes, including redeployments, furloughs, and layoffs due to COVID-19. Additionally, 64% are concerned about using 2020 data to plan for 2021, which comes at a time when almost all companies say they have either established an initiative to be more data-driven or have a plan to do so.

The report, produced by Wakefield Research for Alation, the leader in enterprise data intelligence solutions, provides a quarterly assessment of the progress enterprises have made in creating a data culture within their organizations, the challenges they face in embracing data-driven decision-making, and the progress they have made in leveraging data to drive business value for their organizations. The Q4 2020 report also examines how data professionals were impacted by the pandemic.

Among the top findings in the report pertaining to the impact of COVID-19 and the effects on 2021 planning:

  • 85% of data professionals say their company was unprepared to operate in a crisis.

  • 71% say their ability to accurately budget is impacted by anomalous 2020 data and 70% say they are impacted in their ability to forecast.

  • 55% of data professionals are using economic or financial news for 2021 business planning; 50% are using 2019 or earlier data; 55% are using their competitors’ activities, 49% are using third-party insights, 48% are using news about the pandemic, and 47% are using their executives’ instincts.

  • 52% believe their company will be hiring in 2021 and 72% feel that cuts made to their data budgets are likely to be restored.

“While departing employees’ files are often saved, their knowledge sadly leaves with them – on everything from where data was sourced for a given report to how a metric is defined. The loss of this tribal knowledge can impact the company for years to come — causing confusion, and bad decisions based on misunderstood analytics,” said Aaron Kalb, co-founder and Chief Data & Analytics Officer, Alation. “Companies must capture this knowledge and share it across the enterprise to become data-driven and achieve successful business outcomes.”

Other top findings in the report:

  • The lack of analytical skills among employees has emerged as a top challenge to using data effectively, along with the lack of data democratization and organizational silos.

  • Generating revenue was a top driver for using data and analytics, an increase from 41% in Q3 to 53% in Q4, now tying with operations and efficiency.

  • With a lack of analytical skills among employees as a top obstacle, companies cite training (or re-training) employees on how to use data within their organization as the top initiative (52%) for fostering a data culture –– up from 37% in Q3. Emphasis on data skills in new hires also saw an increase from 38% to 46%.

Data Culture Index

The Alation State of Data Culture Report also contains the Data Culture Index™ (DCI). In Q4 organizations showed progress towards building data culture. 35% percent of companies were ranked as having a top-tier data culture, up from 33% in Q3 and 30% were ranked as having a low-tier data culture, down from 35% in Q3.

The Data Culture Index™ (DCI) is a quantitative assessment of how well an organization is positioned to enable data-driven decision-making. Enterprises were scored based upon the adoption of the three-pillar disciplines of data culture: the ability to find data (data search & discovery); the ability to properly analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from data (data literacy); and the ability to ensure trustworthiness and accountability of data assets, including compliance with policies and regulations (data governance).

All enterprises still have considerable work ahead of them, the index found. Fewer than 10% of respondents report that their companies have fully enabled the three disciplines of data culture across all departments.

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About the Alation State of Data Culture Report The Alation State of Data Culture Report is a quarterly study sponsored by Alation and executed by Wakefield Research. Wakefield Research conducted a quantitative research study among 300 Data & Analytics Leaders at enterprises with 2,500+ employees in the US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Enterprises are polled each quarter regarding the progress of establishing a data culture — i.e., a culture of data-driven decision making — within their organizations, the challenges they face in embracing data-driven decision making, and the progress they have made in leveraging data to drive business value for their organization.

About Alation

Alation is the leader in enterprise data intelligence solutions, enabling self-service analytics, cloud transformation, data governance, and AI-ready data. More than 550 enterprises build data culture and improve data-driven decision-making with Alation, including Cisco, DocuSign, Nasdaq, Pfizer, and Samsung. Alation has been named to Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces list five times, is a 2022 UK’s Best Workplaces™ in tech and Best Workplaces™ for Women, and recognized as a 2022 and 2023 UK’s Best Workplaces™. For more information, visit

Alation Media Contact

Lauren Lloyd

Director, Corporate Communication