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Transform Your Corporate Culture to Best Use Big Data

Fly by data, not just the seat of your pants.

In the last decade Big Data and AI have both seen material-level spending growth by corporations big and small. We have even seen the advent of the Chief Data Officer as a strategic billet of the C-level suite. Millions of dollars spent on data collection, analytics, process improvement and staffing can go to waste if you don’t implement and nurture a data-driven corporate culture.

Here’s the challenge: data-driven corporate cultures take time and abundant leadership to establish, nurture and grow. Becoming data driven is not just an issue of spending money, it is a thoughtful, immersive and iterative process.

Data-driven corporate cultures can’t thrive under the microaggressions of employees that don’t want to use corporate-wide technology, or managers that do not care to document and use KPIs and other metrics. They can’t survive in the hands of directors and VPs that prefer using Big Data retroactively to justify decisions already made by the seat of the pants. Data-driven corporate cultures wither if executives are allowed to selectively focus on the data that justifies their opinion or worst, ignore acting on facts highlighting what should be blinding flashes of the obvious (BFOs).

Data-driven cultures live and thrive when at all levels, and specially at the highest ranks of the organization, the use of Big-Data is encouraged by designing it into the processes that govern day-to-day operations. Data-driven cultures work when the C-level suite relentlessly asks “what does the data tell us?” and then sets the example acting on the data accordingly.

The answer to “what does the data tell us?” only matters when we can trust it, and that trust is only developed through multiple “positive experiences” over time. The process of transforming corporate culture to embrace Big Data has a good chance to succeed if rather than declaring the corporation to be data-driven overnight, corporations thoughtfully, relentlessly and uniformly use data to make simple decisions first, until the process becomes part of the corporate DNA and every major decision. Crawl, walk, run. Easy day, right?

Not so.

Over the next few days I’ll write a series of blogs to address a few practical ways on how to build that trust in the data and facilitate the corporate culture transformation so that Big Data can be used as a forward-looking planning tool rather than a rearview mirror.

I’ll expand on thoughts around the following topics:

  • Normalizing data across the corporation

  • Selecting the correct KPIs to track

  • Calibrating data observation

  • Interpreting graphic representations

  • Grooming staff to be more data-centric

Creating or fostering a data-driven culture can be a challenge because when properly used, Big Data hides nothing and can stress the trust factor, soliciting some uncomfortable actions by leaders at all levels. The good news is that when a data-driven culture is embraced, the burden of action is shared and better decisions that support corporate success are consistently and proactively made at all levels instead of just being justified.

Big Data and AI are tools of the corporate bag just as much as gut feel and experience; and you need the latter in spades. That said, there is a reason why even the most experienced pilots and astronauts trust their instruments, and then leverage their training and the seat of their pants. Shouldn’t your corporate culture do so as well?

Let’s dive in. See you on the next blog where we’ll talk about normalizing data across the corporation!


I recently read two Harvard Business Review (HBR) articles on Big Data based on a NewVantage Partners survey focused on understanding “How Big Data and AI are Accelerating Business Transformation”. I strongly recommend that you give these two articles and survey a read, so I’ve placed the links below. Good stuff for sure!

HBR – “Is Your Business Masquerading as Data-Driven?”

HBR – “Companies Are Failing in Their Efforts to Become Data-Driven”

NewVantage Partners – “How Big Data and AI are Accelerating Business”

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