For the full article :https://canopylabs.com/blog/fostering-a-culture-of-data
Earlier this September, we wrote about the importance of fostering a company culture that embraces data to drive revenue and improve organizational practices. The article generated a great deal of discussion and feedback across our online communities, and we were fortunate to have many industry leaders weigh in with their own experiences. We reached out to a few of them to hear a bit more about their own stories and perspectives.
Today, we speak with Flora Lewin of B-Pro on how to use data to shape company strategy, as well as some common strategy mistakes and pitfalls that organizations can avoid.
Flora, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My pleasure. My name is Flora Lewin and I’m a partner at B-Pro, a consultancy firm based in Israel. B-Pro helps customer centric organizations achieve growth by combining customer, data and technology strategies with the best methodology and tools for ensuring execution. We do not sell any products, nor do we assist in technical implementations.
Our consulting work is grounded in our own experiences with large organizations. Before joining B-Pro, I served as the CIO of a major organization – so when it comes to making difficult decisions around changing corporate attitudes, I know what that means because I have been there. I understand the difference between academic solutions and action-oriented ones. So it’s really about knowing both the academic theories around management, but also understanding the politics and individual interests that exist within large organizations. We combine the “softer stuff” and the business side of applications with the engineering and technical challenges and opportunities, and that is where our value proposition lies.
You work with many customer-centric companies and organizations. How do you see data changing the way organizations operate?
I think it is a really exciting time to be working in large organizations right now. The term “Big Data” has really opened up a big appetite and curiosity around this space, and while some organizations may not be ready to make big moves around it, they are at least curious enough to explore the topic and really invest time and money into research.
Data itself may not solve problems, but I think it gives you the grounding to start making changes around your business. It helps drive better business decisions, it helps you stay ahead of your competitors, and it informs strategic decisions, like whether to adopt a new business model, or decide on a major merger. This is an exciting time for organizations to do all of that.
What advice would you give to businesses when it comes to using data to achieve its goals?
First of all, remember that data is not the solution – it is just the means to the solution. Data helps you build a business case and identify new trends and patterns, but you still need to understand the context around the decisions being made, and you need to recognize and respect the existing corporate culture and priorities. Use data to build your case – but remember that it is not a solution in itself.
My second piece of advice is to work with your IT department. Sometimes, the immediate priorities and responsibilities of IT, sales, and marketing will differ, but all sides need to be patient and cooperative. After all, you will eventually need to work together when it comes to integration and ensuring platform stability. Find a way to work together.
Any examples that you can share with our readers?
Certainly. In particular, I’m reminded of one large organization we worked with where there was a lot of internal confusion and differing priorities around data and analytics. In this case, the CEO would talk proudly about Big Data, and all of the so-called shiny things that would be achieved by harnessing data analytics – but if you asked the sales and IT teams, their bigger challenge was just making sure the data they were collecting was actually accurate in the first place! So there was a clear gap between what management wanted, and what the operational teams were looking for.
How do you get to a common solution? Where do you invest? Do you invest in the “boring stuff”, such as making sure the data is correct, or do you place it in the shiny stuff like BI? Balancing both sides can be a challenge.
How do you help them make a decision between those two options?
The golden rule is around setting reasonable expectations. In fact, that’s probably the best piece of advice my mother imparted on me!
To be truly successful, everyone in the organization, from top to bottom, needs to be on the same page around what being data-driven means and what that will achieve. There needs to be a balance between respecting the existing way of doing things and embracing the new, shiny stuff. This involves surveying the organization, putting together workshops, and jointly defining key goals and metrics around the data strategy. Only when you involve all of the parties will you get true buy-in from the entire organization, from IT to management to sales.
We recently went through this strategy process with a large financial organization that we work with. Now, they are establishing the role of a Chief Data Officer, and starting to build out the supporting processes and teams that will really make data a key pillar in their larger organizational strategy. Data can now become a valuable asset rather than an operational nightmare, and its something that they can use to leverage their business and ultimately achieve the larger strategic goals. And it was really about getting buy-in from all sides, making sure that successes were recognized and that challenges were dealt with together, instead of blaming each other.
What’s the best way to bridge those IT and business gaps?
I find that oftentimes, the squabbles may take place over discussions of data and technology, but the underlying issue is confusion around the organization’s bigger strategy.
You see this problem being discussed in the work of Palladium Group, whom we represent here in Israel. Palladium is a strategy consultancy founded by Dr. Kaplan and Norton from Harvard University, and while they write about various ideas from strategy execution to balance scorecards, the core message they try to distil is that companies need to take a hard look at how their strategy is being perceived and defined by various stakeholders and parties. If everybody is on the same page, if everybody understands what the goals are, then it is much easier to achieve that. You need a sort of “North Star” that guides the entire organization toward a common objective and ideal.
If you had to sum up your advice in a few sentences, what would you say to our readers?
Set reasonable expectations and work them out in a process. I’ve found that setting expectations and communicating them well can be just as, if not more challenging than the technology integration itself. We are now at a stage where technologies are stable and widespread enough, and the new challenge is really around soft skills and management.
In a sense, it’s like electricity – when it works and it’s flowing, you don’t worry about that stuff for your business, you’re more focused on the more advanced and nuanced things. I assume that the data analytics technology is already stable, so now I’m making sure we’re optimizing it well, we’re delegating responsibilities, and we’re setting reasonable targets for all of us to aim for.
Thank you to Flora Lewin for joining us for this interview – click here to see her work at B-Pro. To learn more about your own company’s data culture, read our free Customer Data Framework white paper today.