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Data leaders take twin tracks to develop data culture

Happy colleagues sit around with laptops and discuss data culture

As demand for a data culture is on the rise, read this blog to discover how data leaders are looking for new ways to operate.

Developing a leading data culture within an organization is hard, but a growing number of data leaders are finding a twin-tracked approach that enables both an immediate response to business needs and the development of a long-term culture. Data leaders from retail, financial services, and manufacturing revealed the challenges of giving businesses improved data instantly, whilst also looking to improve the overall approach.

Data culture is about more than technology

Developing the right culture is essential if organizations are to become data-driven. Data culture is about more than technology; with a data culture in place, organizations develop the ability to make accurate and fast decisions based on trusted insight. As a culture, behaviour towards data becomes part of the values of the organization and the beliefs of the people that make up that organization. Data becomes central to operations and even the corporate identity.

The development of a data culture has become a senior leadership team priority. Research carried out by global technology analyst house IDC found that 83% of CEOs want their organizations to become data-driven. The study also found that 74% of business leaders require data for their decision-making, fostering the data culture demand that the data leaders are under pressure to deliver. The IDC research demonstrates that data is no longer a competitive advantage; it has now become critical to the health and continued survival of an organization, a recent study by Tableau found that 82% of executive leaders expect employees to have basic data literacy skills, demonstrating the prioritization data now has at the top table. But, as one leader at the 2022 Gartner Data and Analytics Summit revealed: “It is a lot of work to take a firm from data-aware to being a data leader.” However, this challenge will have to be met, the Tableau study reveals that 70% of employees will be heavy users of data by 2025.

How Data Culture Fuels Business Value in Data-Driven Organisations

IDC survey research shows that data-leading organisations see measurable business outcomes—from employee engagement to financial gains.


This challenge could be why senior data leaders often have a short tenure in roles.

Recently commissioned research with Forrester Consulting, found that like others worldwide, decision-makers for organizations in EMEA recognize the do-or-die imperative of creating a data-based organization. Encouragingly, while a low percentage of employees were getting formal data training, firms nevertheless report that their data upskilling initiatives have produced clear, sometimes “transformative” benefits for employees, departments, enterprises, customers, and other stakeholders.

However, Forrester also identified several gaps that threaten the maturation of data fluency and cultures. Chief among these are: 1) the gap between the need for universally basic and advanced data training, which is recognized by employees and decision-makers 2) the ability of enterprises to deliver effective and scalable programs.

Getting to the big, hairy problems

Data leaders at the 2022 Gartner Data and Analytics Summit revealed that the demand and desire to pivot organizations into being data-centric is creating a real challenge for them and their teams. “Organizations struggle with fire-fighting to deliver on instant demands for data, especially from sales and marketing teams,” one data leader shared. Another data leader from the financial services sector agreed and added: “We never get to the big hairy problems as we are often required to deliver quick, short-term wins.”

Asked by Tableau if moving to self-service data methods would overcome these challenges, the data leaders agreed but also revealed that this can also throw up business challenges: “Self-service implementations take time, and the team that can deliver it is overloaded. So at this point, it is better to provide additional data support.” The demands of implementing self-service were agreed on by many data leaders, with one stating: “We would love to enable self-service, but when you are in a world that is highly competitive, you never get the quiet moment to move to self-service.”

“Self-service is a delicate balance. Putting data into the hands of business users doesn’t always work if they don’t have data literacy,” the data leader of a major European organization revealed. A point that was widely agreed upon by peers. “Self-service is very risky until you get your data models right. This is important as we don’t want to hurt the trust in the data,” one retail data leader said. Others added that data trust, governance, and information security requirements made moving to a new level of data maturity difficult for their organizations. A complexity that some said was exacerbated by major business systems such as SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP). Francis Dejonckheere, Tableau’s Principal Success Manager, describes this scenario as: “A series of trade-offs that require data leaders to decide when to be strategic and when to be tactical.”

As a result, corporate data leaders find themselves working on twin tracks simultaneously in their efforts to deliver a data-centric culture but also meet the instant needs of business lines that are in desperate need of using data for decision-making. One data leader said they try and split their workloads 50/50. This allowed 50% of their time for delivery analysis and how they were moving towards the longer-term development of the organization’s data culture. Another, also taking a twin-track approach, said: “We provide data consulting to business lines, but you have to make it clear that they will run the service after a year,” he said. This allowed his team to meet demands and work towards a more strategic approach to data.

The data leaders shared their insights as part of a simulation exercise devised by Harvard Business School and Tableau at the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit. Working through a fictional scenario revealed how data leaders are coping with rising demand, but also that data culture is of increasing importance, which in turn revealed that data culture is a significant business challenge. Although organizations and their teams are under pressure to deliver instant data-centric results, it is only through the development of a data culture that organizations can continually succeed.

To read more about why a Data Culture is so important in building a resilient, data-driven organisation download the Data Culture playbook.

Webinar: How to build, run, and expand your Data Culture

Join Tableau’s Sr. Evangelist Ashley Howard Neville and Comcast Cable’s Sr. Director of Compensation, Strategy & Insights Dr Yasmine Ndassa for this 60-minute webinar to explore key areas of the data culture.

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