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3 min read

The CEO, Corporate Culture and Data

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We’re all aware of the myriad ways that companies use data to run their business on a daily basis. From transactional records to inventory management to sales forecasts and much more, data is a treasured asset for companies. While having the proper data infrastructure, architecture and supporting technology in place is crucial, data success in a company often depends on the cultural philosophy about data reliance put forth by the head person: the CEO.

Some CEOs are strong advocates for the use of data analytics and display excellent leadership in establishing the tone for their entire company. Having a strong culture in place that is supported by data (and mind and heart – more on that later) helps establish systems throughout the entire enterprise to not only enable the utilization of data, but corresponding programs that rely on data such as data science, machine learning, AI, and advanced analytics.

But for other chief executives, they might need a bit of convincing. For those CEOs who choose to make business decisions solely based on their instincts, well, they could benefit from strategic advice from the CDO, CAO or other senior colleagues. Some organizations such as these may rests on a culture that adheres to “follow-along” thinking and groupthink rather than insight-based analysis and individual empowerment.

In fact, the problem with aligning culture and data is bigger than you might think.

This article and supportive survey by Deloitte dated July 25, 2019 stated that the number of organizations that actually are “insight-driven organizations” are in the minority and a main reason for this occurring may be due to insufficient corporate culture. On the flip side, the story points out that its research of 1,000 executives from companies with 500 or more employees showed that those companies with the most advanced corporate cultures positioned to using data for decision making were twice as likely to exceed their business goals.

And this article in Harvard Business Review written by Thomas H. Davenport and Nitin Mittal dated March 23, 2020 shares a particular interesting point related to this discussion. The article makes mention that in the case when a CEO was a true advocate in the use of data and analytics and then left the company, and when the company was heavily based on using data and analytics under that CEO’s leadership, that the organization often went back to making decisions based on instincts after the CEO moved on.

The lesson learned here regarding that last point is that the entire organization and culture, from top-down, should have a complete understanding about the importance of using data and analytics and everyone within the company should look to persuade others to use data insights. These conversations can take place in one-on-one discussions, departmental meetings, committees, presentations, and other forms of organizational communications. The Harvard Business Review referenced above also lays out several strategies for change management and corporate training and education that might be needed to help cultures become more data savvy.

In addition, in this Infographic by industry analyst firm BARC titled: “BARC Data Culture Survey 22 - How to shape the culture of a data-driven organization,” you can find out about the key areas to focus on and learn about the “BARC Data Culture Framework” in order to build a strong data culture.

Okay, so having a company that successfully uses data rests on a supporting culture. But let’s consider this all-too-important point: who makes up corporate culture? People do. Employees are the ones who know which data to gather for a particular question, how to digest and interpret the data, and which actions to take moving forward. The person who took this initiative to gather pertinent data is a thinking person with experience and instincts that go above and beyond the data ascertained. They have perspective on the bigger picture that the data won’t show such as goals and objectives, environmental concerns, resources, and many other dimensions. They are the ones to pull together all the pieces in order to make sense out of the information. More importantly, it’s the combination of these three factors working in concert that helps us make the most educated and informed decisions.

The bottom line in all this? CEOs should have as a strategic imperative to build and nurture their corporate culture on making their business decisions based on data, mind and heart.

To find out more about data, mind and heart for your company, check out our CEO’s two-part interview published in Analytics, here for part one and here for part two.


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