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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Tips for Getting Your Team Thinking About Data

How to encourage your entire team to think about and use data every day.

Data has changed from something only number crunchers and C-suites think about to a necessity for virtually every department of an enterprise. This data mindset is spreading because it works. You can identify new opportunities, make smarter business decisions, gain a competitive advantage, streamline operations, increase revenue, and better satisfy customers using data.

For some team members, however, data still has a "not for me" stigma. When you make the shift to a data mindset, it's crucial that everyone understands why data is important. Using these tips, you can get your entire team on board with thinking about -- and using -- data every day.

Tip #1: Make it personal

Everyone on your team should already be on board with your mission. It's a crucial component of your company culture. Does everyone understand how data impacts that mission and that it's not just about a written statement, but about cold, hard numbers?

For Further Reading:

How and Why to Build an Analytics-Driven Culture

Why Truly Diverse Teams Create Better Analytics

Personality Traits of Data-Driven Organizations

Take a look at which metrics define how close (or far) you are to achieving your mission. Share those metrics along with your progress in meeting those data-based goals. Ask individual team members to think about how their roles impact your mission and goals and ask them to set or refine individual and group goals -- rooted in data -- that further your overall mission.

Tip #2: Prioritize transparency

To showcase the value of data, be transparent about your company's numbers. Without transparency, team members will get a fragmented picture and won't understand how the data works together. This will lead to frustration and ultimately the abandonment of a data-driven approach. Ensure that data transparency is shown at every companywide meeting. It's crucial that you lead by example.

Tip #3: Flip the script

Your team members have great ideas. Actively solicit those ideas and suggestions, but require them to be backed by data. This will both help focus your team on a data mindset to accomplish the work they want prioritized and improve how decisions are made. Team members will begin to see that when you form strategies based on data, not opinions, results improve, positively reinforcing the use of data and encouraging a cycle of data-backed thinking.

Tip #4: Make data analytics accessible

If you want to ask your employees to take a more active role in data analysis, you need to give them the necessary tools. Ensure that you have the right software in place (such as a business intelligence tool) that makes data accessible to everyone. Many BI solutions offer data visualization components that make data more approachable to those who don't consider themselves "numbers people."

Once you have the right software tool, train your whole team on its use. When team members understand how the power of technology improves their ability to analyze data, they'll be more at ease with thinking in a data-driven way.

Tip #5: Find the cheerleaders

Any organizational change has its early adopters and its stragglers. Make sure you're taking time to applaud those readily adopting a data mindset without discouraging those who may be slower to come around. One way to do this is by finding those cheerleaders and building them into working teams with varying levels of comfort with data. Individuals struggling to understand the data approach might feel more at ease asking questions of a peer than of a leader and can learn through experience.

Putting People First

Data isn't just about numbers -- it's about people, and people have biases, hesitations, and mindsets that can make it difficult to deal with change. When you're focused on moving your organization to a data-centered mindset, it's crucial that you think of your team members first.

Give them the why, the transparency, the tools, and the support they need, and they'll understand the value and get excited about the change. Soon enough, everyone on your team will start to think of themselves as "number crunchers" and the benefits will roll in.

About the Author

Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for She specializes in researching and covering the software industry. She’s passionate about the importance of using data in the workplace and writing about business intelligence. Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.

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