In the past few months the importance of data and making sense of it has been demonstrated very clearly in the frantic activity by governments around the world to detect citizens infected by Covid-19 and crucially to trace the people who have been in contact with those citizens. In spite of all the digital technology and expertise governments have at their disposal, this task has proved to be extraordinarily difficult. Most organisations are not faced by such a challenge but they all need data, important to their operation, that has to be identified, analysed and acted on.
Since the volume of available data is continually expanding, organisations constantly need to determine what is relevant to them and then focus on the critical data. At the same time they are spoiled for choice with very good tools and technology that can help to make sense of the data and drive decisions. The problem for organisations according to Marcel Schwantes is that "it takes more than just tools and technology for these investments to pay off." In his summary of a recent report from Harvard Business Review, he identifies three essential steps to create a culture that embraces digital transformation.
Possibly the most difficult step for leaders is to empower and trust front-line workers to make data-based decisions. “Executives at laggard companies are 10 times as likely as data-led companies to say their top management doesn't want frontline workers making decisions (42 percent versus 4 percent).” But having seized this opportunity, organisations need to ensure that their front-line workers are properly trained to use the technology, glean insights from the data and take the appropriate actions. Finally, organisations need to bring middle managers on board and give appropriate training so that they can provide the vital support role for their people.
If three steps to becoming a data-driven organisation sounds simple then it should be noted that organisation change is not easy for reasons outlined recently by Dr Mike Carter, so these changes need serious planning and preparation. Nevertheless the rewards can be significant which is why organisations and governments are moving rapidly to a data-led future, for example this UK Government initiative to create a "new 'data strategy' for Britain".
Organizations are investing heavily to reorient themselves around data, but the expected gains in productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction won't happen if the company isn't properly prepared. Leaders who oversee these programs must ensure the right training, attitudes, and decision frameworks are in place for data use to flourish.