TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Boost Your Data-Driven Culture with Data Advocacy

Empower a data advocate to champion a data-driven culture at your organization.

In today's data-driven society, most businesses inherently have a data-driven culture to some degree. However, only businesses that are intentional about being data-driven are making the greatest impact on the marketplace. Like the lift from an energy drink, a data advocate can give the needed boost to your data culture, positioning you among the intentionally data-driven.

First, let's lay a foundation for our advocacy by exploring the defining characteristics of a healthy, thriving data-driven business.

Defining Characteristics of a Healthy Data-Driven Culture

If we could peek in on a company enjoying a healthy data-driven culture, we would find some cornerstone operating principles in the company, such as "analytics is not just for executives and marketing programs." All levels of management (from department heads to directors to managers) across business lines share a common belief that data truly is needed for decision making.

Managers prove their commitment to this belief with their daily analysis of operational data to make operational decisions. The alignment of the groups comes about intentionally through a well-integrated data management strategy.

The data governance program in a data-driven organization provides ongoing education with incentives to inspire team members to learn more about data management purpose and new opportunities (e.g., MDM, data stewardship, integrated data, BI and analytics, and big data).

Project management and project approval processes in a data-driven enterprise are designed to promote the value of agile analytics solutions.

Chief officers and stakeholders are ready and willing to invest in process improvement of their operational analytics so they can make better-informed decisions every day. The company's financial statements contain ongoing, sustained budgeting for infrastructure improvement and investing in new technologies.

The Data Advocate

To enjoy a thriving data-driven culture like the one we just described, your organization needs a person or a team to play the role of the data advocate.

Consider a patient advocate at your local hospital whose role is to give a voice to the patients and be a liaison to ensure patient needs are being met by the hospital with the highest quality service. Likewise, in the business world, you need a data advocate who gives a voice to the data -- ensuring that not one single data asset is lost along the way and that all the data is working together for the good of the organization, providing optimum business value.

The data advocate is someone who understands the data of the business and the systems through which the data flows. Because such advocates are tech-savvy, they see how a new technology can open doors for the business. They have a deep business process knowledge that drives their understanding of the business' true data needs.

Strong people and communication skills are essential for the data advocate to build partnerships across business lines and educate and inspire teams to become data-driven decision makers. A data advocate champions and promotes a data-driven culture by living in the community among the business groups and addressing their key challenges through data solutions, technology improvements, and opportunities. Such an advocate is prepared to persuade the reluctant through positive, informative, factual sound bites.

The data advocate is a visionary who can see the big picture of the enterprise data landscape and still see how each thread of individual business needs and related data assets fits into the tapestry. A data-driven culture abounds in hidden opportunities waiting to be uncovered. By creating the excitement and the alliances that will bring that culture to your enterprise, a data advocate can help you reap the full benefits of your data.

About the Author

Wes Flores of McKnight Consulting Group has over 20 years of experience in the data management field. Specializing in the areas of enterprise data warehousing, MDM, analytics and BI programs, he has worked mid-sized to Fortune 15 companies with a passion in promoting data as an asset. You can contact the author at Wflores@mcknightcg.com.

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