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What Building a Data Culture Really Means

illustration of people and shapes
What business problems are you trying to solve? In just one hour, you can decide why a data culture matters to your organization. [Illustration by Petra Sitaru]

Getting leaders to consistently use data for decisions is difficult. Instilling a robust data culture across teams is even harder. Here’s how to make it happen.

How does a business build and cultivate a robust data culture? How does it ensure that employees across all levels – from junior associates and customer service reps to analytics directors and marketing leads – have the resources to make good use of that data? We’ve asked business leaders from a range of industries what you can do in an hour, a quarter, and a year to make a data culture happen.

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What can you do to create a data culture in one hour?

Jackie Yeaney, executive vice president of marketing, Tableau

Ask the right questions. Everyone wants a data culture, but not enough people are asking the right questions about data. Why do you want a data culture? What are you trying to answer with data? What business problems are you trying to solve? In one hour, you can probably come up with the reason data matters to your organization. Now, taking action on that may take you a year, but use the first hour to reflect and ask yourself the foundational questions that too many people skip.

Martin Kihn, senior vice president of strategy for Marketing Cloud, Salesforce

Show off your tools. Spreadsheets are still most people’s tool for data. And that’s insane. I can’t think of any other technology that came out before I was born that’s still used so pervasively. Introduce your team to a data visualization tool such as Tableau, and show them that in five minutes, anyone can build a dynamic interactive dashboard from any data source. I don’t think people have a clue how easy this is. And it’s a far better day-to-day alternative to spreadsheets.

illustration of hands holding data points on a graph

What can you do to build a data culture in a quarter?

Darshan Chandarana, digital banking and insurance leader, PwC

Get under the hood. Ensure you have the right tools and processes to empower diverse teams. If they’re in sales, they need technology that gives them pertinent data on any device. Delivery staff need the right tools to show where they are in a project, what the team’s velocity is, and where the blockers are. It’s easy to overlook that platform serving up your data, but it can make or break a team.

Molly Q. Ford, vice president of global equality programs, Salesforce

Use data to tackle equality. I’ve always believed that you can’t change what you don’t measure. And that’s especially true when it comes to changing pervasive inequality in our workplaces. Companies who are serious about being more inclusive will begin tracking headcount, promotion, and attrition rates across gender and race. Tracking that data also signals to your team that a robust data culture can affect more than just the bottom line – it can change your company’s role in society.

illustration of person sitting in a lotus position in front of a data graph

What can you do to progress toward data culture in a year?

Cindy Hoffman, director of enterprise data strategy, governance, and analytics, Xcel Energy

Show every employee the ropes. Develop a company-wide data training curriculum. The development of the training I provided at Xcel took the better part of six months or so just to make sure it really resonated. But the training itself has been continually refined to the point where it only takes about 12 minutes for anybody at the company to complete. Spend the time to build a curriculum that’s quickly accessible and easy for folks across your entire enterprise.

Darshan Chandarana, digital banking and insurance leader, PwC

Normalize data-driven insight. Share these insights generously with partners, clients, and other third parties to instill a transparent and outcome-based way of working. At the same time, don’t stand still. Constantly evolve your thinking, and don’t shy away from evolving your approach to data. It’s only when you embed this into the ways of working for everyone that you will be able to achieve growth through data-driven insight.

What is a data culture?

Teach your organization to practice data-driven behaviors, prioritize data in decision making, and unite a data-driven vision across teams.

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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