Culture – the Biggest Hurdle to Getting Payoff from Big Data and Analytics?


Big data and analytics have gained centre stage recognition as being a powerful tool for competitive advantage. Insights gleaned from data are being leveraged ingeniously across the globe. To add to this, the ease and speed with which organisations can leverage analytics for competitive advantage has increased enormously with the birth of machine learning. Cognitive computing technologies are being deployed to improve cancer treatment, personalise banking and insurance services, and even improve student support. There seems to be no limit to how we can manipulate algorithms and predictive analytics for competitive advantage.

So what stalls our analytics projects?

People, processes, and ultimately, culture.

90% of respondents in a Teradata-Forbes Insights survey stated that they faced some form of cultural challenges. This notion has been echoed in conversations I have had with leading data and analytics professionals across the APAC region. Despite organisations being data rich, they are still unable to use their information intelligently for competitive advantage due to lack of support. Getting buy-in from senior executives, collaboration between IT and the business and getting compliance to data initiatives are some of the biggest issues mentioned to me time and time again. The problem is that not everyone is a believer in the power of data – yet.

At the recent Chief Data Officer Forum in Melbourne, a number of the presentations had a very common theme – get the people and processes right first – then select the technology to fit. It is not just about the tools – the soft skills count too. Without organisational support, your analytics projects are destined to fail! So great a concern is the issue of building a data-driven culture amongst our community that we held a discussion group focusing on this topic in Melbourne, co-hosted with Veritas. Three key factors central to establishing a data-driven culture arose.


1/ Data ownership 

This topic has been dissected in many forums for years and there still seems to be no general consensus as to who should be responsible for data ownership. CIO/ CMO/ CTO – the jury is still out. Of course, for those companies who have already appointed a Chief Data Officer, the obvious champion is clear. In Melbourne, one of our panellists shared his successes implementing data stewards. Rather than hiring data stewards, they brought together staff who were passionate about data and data quality, and who could ensure that key data assets were protected and leveraged across the company. Another speaker suggested linking data governance to an employee’s personal KPIs so that datasets can be completely trusted.


2/ Top Down vs. Bottom Up? 

The general consensus is that you need to work on both approaches simultaneously. It is very difficult to establish a data-driven culture without buy-in from the top. Our speaker in Melbourne noted that with the support of the Australian Commissioner, a significant emphasis was placed on analytics at the Australian Taxation Office. The ATO has established the Smarter Data Program with up to 300 staff members and growing, where once there were only 40 employees engaged in analytics.

Once you have demonstrated the value analytics can bring to the company at the top, the culture will transpire down the organisation and a greater value will be placed on analytics. That being said, organisations still need to approach culture issues from the bottom up to reduce the areas that go against the data-driven culture. This is where Councils have a key role to play. They can serve as a forum where analysts can have a voice. They can leverage the platform to discuss their data, how they can use it to add value, and establish a vision for the future.


3/ Education 

Educating employees on the gains to be had from data analytics is paramount to the successful creation of a data-driven organisation. They don’t just need to learn the processes, they need to know how to derive the most value from their data. Attendees in Melbourne also agreed that the key to overcoming data quality challenges lies in educating employees across the organisation. If there are silos within the organisation that go against the culture, the results are toxic. You need to be able to identify those silos, understand the cause and work with them to swiftly resolve these issues.

There are no quick wins – driving the data agenda across the business is hard. The organisations that emerge victorious will be those that can really transform their culture to reap the rewards from big data analytics.

Organisational culture changes are starting to happen. Those that are successfully transforming their culture to become truly data-driven are seeing results impacting their bottom line, improving customer experience and the overall quality of their customer interactions.


This post was originally published on Data Digest. For more content related to big data, innovation and analytics, visit


Monica Mina is the Content Director for Corinium. For enquiries, email: [email protected].

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