‘Data is guilty until proven innocent’ – changing organisation-wide perception on data

Mistrust of data is one of the biggest obstacles for an organisation to overcome in its data journey. For data to be truly effective, it needs company-wide buy-in and trust that insights are meaningful, timely and accurate. However, the notion that ‘all data is guilty until proven innocent’ is one that rings true for many – and one that certainly applied to B&H Worldwide at the outset of our data journey.

Breaking down the barriers to instil trust in data is not always easy and like most digital transformation, there is no quick fix. Fortunately, however, there are steps organisations can take to overcome misconceptions around data and ensure that it can be used to drive positive change throughout the business.

 

Taking the initial leap of faith

Data tools and software are not an insignificant investment, especially for smaller businesses, and require widespread adoption if they are to drive tangible value and change across the organisation. Without being able to clearly define what the outcome is going to be, it can be challenging for data champions to get key stakeholders wholly invested in the idea that data is going to have a powerful impact on the organisation. The initial investment in a data tool can often be seen as a leap of faith – at least to those that need the most convincing.

Yet, getting the support and sponsorship of one executive leader or board member is often all it takes to get the ball rolling. At B&H Worldwide, we had the driving force of our CIO, and very quickly, complete board-level support.  Our board understand the value of timely and reliable data insights, that can be presented in a format that makes the information easy to understand for all users and therefore bought into the investment in relatively short time.

However, even once we had the right software in place to support our goals of building a data-driven culture, we still had to win over the hearts and minds of every employee in the organisation.

 

Building organisation-wide trust

There was previously widespread mistrust of insights between teams within our organisation. We often spent a large proportion of meetings discussing whether the data we were using was correct or not. There was no single version of the truth due to lack of trust in the data reported and the fact that data was extracted from a variety of systems and tools.

When investing in new data software, we understood that we needed to provide easy-to-action insights that would help encourage adoption and change management perception of data and its insights. We collaborated, and continue to collaborate, with Qlik Elite partner, Data Technology as we bought into their business approach to consulting and deployment.  This approach enables us to deliver intuitive apps and automated reporting which enables a self-service approach to data reporting. With simple, strong visualisations that are easy to create and consume, Qlik was a natural choice as individuals could immediately see how user-friendly the software is for analysing data and reporting. It catalysed a shift in the perception of data and its potential insights: we started small, but this soon shifted towards a reliance on Qlik’s insights in our day-to-day operations. We took the time to explain to users how the data was constructed, and assumptions utilised throughout the software and involved them in the continuous improvement of reporting and the data itself.  This ensures that all those impacted are invested in the accuracy of, and outcomes driven by, the data

The result? We have empowered users to become true advocates for a data-driven culture. As teams saw the time-savings and efficiencies that the data could bring, they became more invested in the process and aware of how their daily activities impact data outputs and insights. Businesses looking to do the same must bring employees on the journey with them to ensure that data does not become an extra layer of work in their already busy days, and instead offers a solution to improving productivity, growing trust in the insights reported, and having true bottom line impact. In doing so, organisations can help employees to see and accept one single version of the truth and completely trust the insights data provides for all decision-making.

 

Maintaining trust through turbulence

The benefits of shifting to a data-driven culture are perhaps most evident when a business hits rough water. The Covid-19 pandemic has instigated an economic downturn across most businesses and, operating in logistics for aerospace components, we were no different.

Our recent adoption of timely data-informed decision making played a key role in how we responded to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Access to timely, relevant data has been critical in enabling us to understand the trajectory of shipments, ensure cashflow is optimised, and identify and mitigate possible issues so that the business continues running despite significant disruption.

This is not something we would have been able to achieve if the pandemic had struck before our data transformation. The time it took to consolidate data from different systems would have inhibited us from producing valuable insights at a time when continuous, real-time updates are crucial to continuity. What’s more, our organisation-wide journey of data adoption means that when presented to relevant individuals, they trust what they are being told and are able to use insight to inform decisions. This ensured that we confidently moved as one organisation – not divided or pulled in different directions based on opposing instincts – which is not something we would have been capable of prior to initiating our data journey.

 

Creating one version of the truth

Facilitating trust in data is one of the most important components of a successful data strategy. Without the support and belief in data from all users, an organisation runs the risk of decisions being made by instinct or gut feel, rather than referring to accurate insights where available. At B&H Worldwide, we worked closely with the executive team to ensure leadership was on board with enabling an organisation-wide data-driven culture – and this then cascaded down to all levels. Once impacted teams saw the value and benefits data offered, their curiosity was raised, and we saw a huge increase in demand for new insights and reporting that has improved operational performance and customer service. As a result, we are enabling a data-driven culture that has been integral to our ability to adapt over the past few tumultuous months and that will drive success in the years to come.

 

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