data-driven culture change management

Today’s A:360 discusses why developing and nurturing a data-driven culture is as crucial to your analytics success as your technology implementation. Many fail to realize that analytics is as much an exercise in change management as it is in development and programming. In this podcast, I’ll give my thoughts on why creating a strong data culture is so critical and some tips to develop one as you start out on the analytics journey.

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Hey everyone, welcome to today’s A:360. My name is Brewster Knowlton, and today we’re going to be talking about why developing a data-driven culture is often more challenging than any of the technical implementation projects that you’ll have to face in your analytics journey.

People are often surprised when I say that what they assume to be predominantly a technology or technical-based implementation is actually harder from a change management or cultural perspective. Analytics, in general, and the deployment of analytics is by no means an “if you build it they will come” solution. Overcoming the cultural and are often more crucial and relevant to the success of your analytics initiative than any technology implementation or any technological aspect of the analytics implementation.

Why is that?

An initial component of deploying an analytics solution and, in fact, one of the best ways to get a return on your investment in the first 12-18 months is by automating redundant, manual reporting tasks. On a recurring basis, I’m sure your staff spend thousands of hours producing the same reports month by month living and dying by their VLOOKUPs, manually pulling, merging and extracting data. It’s inefficient.

But even when the most well-intentioned employee hears that twenty hours of their work week is going to be automated, the initial reaction is to be a little bit fearful and concerned as to whether or not they are going to lose their job. It’s their livelihood. It makes sense. One of the initial components and the initial challenges of developing a data-driven culture is creating a structure such that people feel comfortable having parts of their job automated. They can understand that the automation process is not brought up as, “Hey, we’re going to take away a part of your job”. It’s brought on as a way to say that we are going to enable you to do more of what you were truly hired to do. Analysts should not be spending 90% of their time merging and extracting data. They should be spending 90% of their time analyzing data. In that context, help your analysts understand that, “No, we’re not taking your job away from you, we’re simply enabling you to actually fulfill the job function that you were hired to perform”.

I have a few tips that can help assist in the change management process and in developing a data-driven culture. The first is to provide “the why”. Why are we going through this analytics journey? Why are we developing analytics and making this a core competency of our organization? Be transparent about that process and the initiative. It’s not that you’re trying to take jobs away from people, it’s that you’re looking to enable people to perform their jobs even better, to provide a better member or customer experience, and to deliver on whatever the mission statement or strategic goals of your organization are. People will buy into that if it is properly described and properly communicated. Providing “the why” and the explanation for why the effort is taking place and how it will actually benefit them is crucial. Do not create a sense of opacity where there is some black box of analytics somewhere in a back room. That creates fear and concern, and it will ultimately cause people to be more resistant to change. Again, transparency and providing “the why” is a crucial first step in beginning to create a data-driven culture.

My next point is actually one that I have previously discussed in other podcasts on the Analytics Flywheel Effect. It’s worth reiterating here, in this context, because the value of quick wins cannot be underestimated or understated when it comes to developing a data-driven culture. Everyone loves when things are made easier for them. If you can create enough of those quick wins and make tasks easier for someone, it changes the mentality from “someone is taking my job away”, to “somebody is making my life easier”. That mentality shift is crucial to gather support. It’s a very simple way to get employees aligned with the analytics objectives. I’ve talked about this before in a previous podcast, so I don’t want to waste too much time talking about it. However, developing quick wins not only helps generate ROI and some momentum for your analytics initiative, but it’s also one of the strongest ways to develop a data-driven culture.

The next point is by far one of the most overlooked aspects of any analytics initiative – training. Training the business users – the consumers of your analytics efforts – on how to access and leverage the dashboards, reports, and analytics cannot be understated. If you’re rolling out a new core, you’d never deploy it to frontline staff without properly training them on how to use it. The same goes for a new LOS or CRM system. The same has to be true for your analytics platform.

Ask yourself this: are you properly teaching, training and supporting your customers – the business users – how to consume, leverage and take advantage of the information and the analytics that you provide?

Train, train and train some more. And, when you think you’ve done enough training and led enough focus groups or support and communication with your users, do a little bit more. This not only creates a line-of-sight and transparency between the business users and the analytics or BI team, it also helps the users feel more comfortable with the analytics solution. Eventually, they will create their own reports and their own analytics. This also helps with the scaling and growth of your analytics initiatives. .

Let’s throw a cliché out there.

Change is hard.

We intuitively understand that change is difficult. People say that they want to change (and I do believe that most genuinely want to change), but, when you get into the process of actually changing, some challenges become clear. It’s hard. There is fear. People are used to doing something a certain way for a long time (in some cases, for upwards of twenty years!). When you try to take that away from them or there is the perception that something of theirs is being taken away, these challenges become particularly apparent. It’s imperative to maintain and manage that fear of lack of control that comes with the change management process. The technological challenges and making a proper analytics platform choice is, of course, significant and important. But, give as much emphasis to how you’re going to manage the change process. Leverage the knowledge and skills of your HR team. Perhaps they can assist you with the implementation and deployment plan from an organizational development perspective. Leverage the resources and the assets that you have in your organization, each with their own skills, to be able to best improve your chances of success with analytics at your organization.

That’s it for today. Thanks again for tuning in to today’s A:360.

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