“Imagine” – A data literate world

“Imagine” – A data literate world

Whenever I heard this song during my teenage days, I would be taken over by a pervasive feeling of making a difference in the world, just the way teenagers usually feel.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too.

As time passed, “there’s no countries” seemed a distant dream. But I had fallen for another dream—a realizable vision of a data-literate world—with an impact similar to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.

Let me explain how this came to be. I lead a global data science consulting practice. Our clients approach us with a specific problem: plunge in revenue (COVID or not), frauds resulting in heavy losses, declining NPS, large claims pay-out, spiking cost of user acquisition and so on. We solve these problems using our client’s data and our data science expertise to deliver optimized solutions towards maximum ROI.

I have seen the power of data, up close, in making or breaking a company—of pulling teams and resources together to deliver significant value to the end customers.

Over the years, my team and I noticed some clients were a lot more successful in utilizing our insights and models than others. They were poised to learn, their leadership was inspiring, their teams were ready to act on insights produced by us as well as their internal team, and they were experts at executing efficiently. They continued to build amazing products and experiences to delight their customers.

What differentiated the ones who were successful from the ones who were not?

Their data culture!

These successful organizations were data elite, i.e they had a data-driven culture, possessing high data culture quotient (DCQ). They were profitable and growing even when their respective industry sank.

And thus, began my dream of turning every organization in every country to be data-driven—one company at a time.

What would such an organization look like?

Just hum along this John Lennon-inspired “Imagine a Data Literate World” and you will know.

Imagine easy data access
It’s easy if you try
No silos around us
Marching towards KPI’s

Imagine all the people
Making optimized decisions (ah ah ah)

Imagine data-driven leaders
With clear visions on what to do
Driven by analytics agenda
And no data skepticism, too

Imagine all the people
Marrying gut with data

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be data-driven

Imagine no data-delusions
Data n’ charts are friends
No dependence on data people
Citizen analyst solve on their own

Imagine all the people
Data literates they’ve become (ah ah ah)

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
Working together as one

If you want to turn the above into reality for your organization, invest in developing these 4 Ds for your organization.

  • Data Maturity: The first step towards building a culture of data is giving people access to data. There should be “easy access to data” as well as a single source of truth (SSOT) with proper security and governance in place. People should not have to think about where they can get data and if they should believe the data. Easy data access is the key to developing a culture of data
  • Data Literacy: To optimize decisions at every level, every person in an organization should have some level of data literacy based on their respective job profiles. Some people may only need a basic understanding of data, ability to read graphs and draw conclusions from it. Others may need to do some fundamental analytics on their own, such as aggregate analysis and correlation analysis, to make decisions like which campaign is doing better, what are the drivers of conversion, etc. Similarly, some people may only need to be a data enthusiast and believe in data. You need each member of your company to have some level of data literacy (as per their skills and capability) so that “all the people” make “optimized decisions.”
  • Data-driven leadership: It is impossible to develop data culture without having data-driven leaders who treat data as a significant asset for the organization. The leaders understand the power of data for the insights it can deliver and hold the team accountable for their respective decisions backed by data. To build a data culture and optimize solutions, the data-driven leader should have “clear visions on what to do.”
  • Data-driven decision-making process: A data-driven company makes project decisions based not on key stakeholder’s intuition but facts and data—projects should be chosen on the expected ROI or impact on the KPIs. You need to marry “gut with data” with a systematic data-driven approach to decision-making. This way you have full transparency, allowing you to look back and learn from the past decisions and improve your future decisions.

I had started dreaming of this new world when I saw the power of data and data culture in my numerous corporate jobs as a data scientist and then as a data science leader. In 2011, I left my corporate job as the Head of Business Analytics – NA at PayPal to follow this dream and founded Aryng. At Aryng, I built a team of data science experts.

Even though my team comprised many experts, who made a significant impact in their past corporate roles, we failed initially in incorporating a data-driven culture in the companies of our clients. We were only focused on developing data literacy and that was not moving the dial on their data culture.

Eventually, through many iterations and failures, we developed and operationalized 4D’s of data culture that I have shared above. In the last three years, we have been successful in not only making our clients more date-driven as measured by their Data Culture Quotient ( DCQ) but also impacting the top KPIs as a direct result of our data culture transformation work.

Today, the world is experiencing a major pandemic, and I can say with much certainty that companies that will utilize this time as an opportunity to invest in digital transformation and data culture will survive this unpleasant scenario. They will then thrive in the post-COVID world as they have learnt to do more with less, utilizing data to learn and inform their decisions.

If your organization is not there, now is the perfect time to invest in these 4Ds and by this time next year, the world will be yours!

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