If anything’s clear in 2021, it’s that data is eating the world. Organizations of every size and across every industry are embracing data-driven decision-making — and the benefits it provides — to work more effectively and efficiently. And we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg as more and more professionals from every department in the organization leverage data to optimize their performance. But integrating data within an organization’s day-to-day operations is easier said than done. A revolution of this size requires a significant culture change as well as a serious investment in internal education to upskill employees with the skills they need to make data an integral part of their daily workflows.
We recently held a webinar — moderated by Karin Shalev-Shogol, GM of Elevation in Germany — to discuss the steps and measures organizations can take to make data literacy a reality in their organization. We were overwhelmed by the response from the hundreds of participants we hosted from around the world.
We were honored to have leading data professionals from some of the world’s most innovative companies as panelists in our webinar. They generously shared insights about building data operations within all sorts of different companies including young, innovative startups like Bird alongside more mature organizations like Fiverr and Amdocs. While each panelist discussed their own challenges and lessons learned, there was one underlying commonality shared between them all — achieving data literacy across the entire organization demands a huge culture shift that cannot happen without upper management onboard.
Harel Ashman, Director of Strategic Initiatives and former Head of L&D at Amdocs has plenty of recent experience implementing data literacy within an established company culture: “taking non-data professionals and helping them become more data-driven is a huge challenge that can only be overcome with support from top management.”
But, according to Harel, you can’t force people to learn new skills. To help ease them down the path, Harel’s team ran an internal marketing campaign focused on selling the why. The campaign showcased data as the skill of the future, highlighting data literacy as an essential work skill key to ensuring that employees stay relevant in the coming years. However, employees were more engaged when they understood that management supported the initiative and when they realized the connection between data literacy and the company’s strategy.
Yaniv Rivlin, GM of Bird Israel agreed about the critical importance of management in creating a data-driven culture: “it needs to start off as a directive from above, and then it needs to be delivered in a way that displays its value and benefits.” According to Yaniv, it’s critical that leaders act as examples by using data to justify decisions in business meetings, and that they make a habit of backing up any opinion with data.
Eran Agam, VP Data at Fiverr, also believes that data literacy should begin at the top of the organization. According to Eran: “data should be treated as a strategic asset. Hire a senior manager with the vision and ability to execute a plan to make data accessible to everyone. This senior position should be responsible for managing the data within the organization and the department should be completely independent in the company structure to ensure its neutrality.”
However, even when management’s onboard, integrating data within the company culture is an uphill battle. According to our internal poll, only 3% of the respondents affirmed that their organizations are data-driven:
- 44% of respondents say that data-driven decision-making is only incorporated in tech and financial departments
- 29% responded that their organizations still have a way to go
- 24% say that they get data reports every once in a while
Data professionals also have a critical role in developing data literacy among other teams in the organization. Eran Agam of Fiverr actively promoted data analytics in his company by developing an internal SQL course for non-data professionals to enable individuals to write their own queries without requiring any resources. He also recommends sharing important insights and research across the entire company. “Whenever we finalize an important study we invite stakeholders to meetings where analysts share their research. They tell the story, give the motivation and share the results and conclusions.”
According to Eran, at Fiverr they’ve developed a complete Knowledge Center that is currently being upgraded into a full-fledged data academy. It will store all the data analytics, presentations and insights so that anyone can browse and search by tags. Eran’s efforts to raise awareness regarding data’s benefits are completely inline with our insights from another internal poll. The results showed that the greatest challenge in implementing a data-driven culture is that most people underestimate the importance of a data-driven culture.
There are lots of different ways to structure your data teams. Yaniv Rivlin, GM of Bird Israel explained that in his organization the data team is centralized at the LA HQ, while offering their services to all of Bird’s worldwide subsidiaries. Conversely, at Fiverr, the data team is a large, decentralized group, made up of several teams. There are teams responsible for shifting and processing the data while another handles algorithms and solves business, operational and product challenges. They also employ a large number of analysts who are assigned to specific domains in order to develop niche expertise and domain knowledge.
As the importance of data in the workplace continues to increase, we’ll only see more and more companies embrace data within their culture. Those that are able to achieve data literacy across the entire organization will be able to unlock countless benefits and efficiencies.