As a leader, you must figure out how to drive the company culture into your data and information practices. For instance, information privacy, quality, completeness, and support should align with your business model and ability to serve your customers so that the digital half of how the enterprise “sees” a customer is managed with the same care as the physical half.
Weaving culture into data behavior might seem daunting, but it ultimately leads to a more effective, modern enterprise. Take these steps to achieve a culture that actively promotes excellent data practices.
1. Make everyone a data citizen. Accountability is the primary characteristic of a company’s ability to promote solid data practices. As Forrester Research analyst Michele Goetz says, “What we need to do is rethink the data governance bottlenecks and… [have] accountability with those that actually know something about the data, how it is used, and who feels the most pain.”
Indeed, the larger an organization gets, the more people feel they can hide from accountability, which leaves important data assets open to mishandling.
For your organization to embrace responsible data stewardship, accountability must be built into your employees’ daily work and visibly demonstrated by those in leadership. Goetz notes that it takes a delicate balance of data automation, manual governance, and scale to make data “a part of the business, not a business disruption.”
2. Identify with data outcomes. When you set a top-down example, your people pick up on it. Whether through newsletters, emails, town halls, or staff meetings, make it clear that everyone is accountable for his own quality control. Outline the consequences of mistakes, giving them a face and a name when possible.
Consider surgeons, for example, who always know how important the outcomes of their jobs are. A surgeon scrubs in knowing how poorly a failure would reflect on his hospital, colleagues and himself—not to mention the adverse effects it would have on his patient.
Johnson & Johnson, which has one of the best and oldest sets of company values, does a great job of identifying outcomes. The company strives to have each worker identify with those values and understand them in relevant terms. New employees undergo orientation and training on the importance of data governance as a part of supporting the digital enterprise.
3. Be practical—not technical—about your data. Too often, leaders try to get technical with data, making it look trendy but robbing it of meaning. Instead, describe data in practical terms. Your employees don’t all have to be data scientists, but they should understand how their work either creates data consumed by others or depends upon data created by others. Making data real to them will help everyone understand how to affect it positively.
When employees are held accountable, know the outcomes projected for their work (i.e., realize they can contaminate the environment if they mishandle data), and understand data in real terms, they’ll be more compelled to treat data carefully.
But it starts with building a company culture that will translate into solid data practices. Leaders in the digital enterprise have to enlist a more data-savvy organization to get the job done, and turning the cultural spotlight on data is the best place to start.