Why Culture Is the Greatest Barrier to Data Success
To be successful with data and analytics, organizations must evolve and change the ways in which they structure current business processes.
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In order to compete in the new digital economy, businesses must become increasingly data-driven. Few executives would dispute this objective. Recent events, including the global outbreak of COVID-19, have underscored the critical importance of having reliable data to inform organizational decision-making. Yet companies continue to struggle to operate in a data-driven manner. Why?
Even though we are now decades into the age of competing with data, a 2020 NewVantage Partners survey of C-suite executives representing more than 70 Fortune 1000 companies found that only 37.8% of companies have created a data-driven organization. In the same survey, 45.1% of executives reported that they compete on data and analytics, but a majority — 54.9% — stated that they do not.
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Meanwhile, investments in data are increasing, with 98.8% of organizations reporting that they are investing in data initiatives. Nearly a fifth of these companies — 18.3% — have invested more than $500 million. Changes are also happening when it comes to enterprisewide governance. Large corporations have increasingly embraced the newly established role of chief data officer (CDO). While only 12% of companies had appointed a CDO as of 2012, this percentage increased to a high of 67.9% by 2019 before falling back to 57.3% in 2020. Among major companies today, there is nearly universal acceptance that data-driven management is strongly preferable to the alternatives.
In spite of the growing consensus and investment levels, only half of organizations — exactly 50% — reported that they are managing data as a business asset. The advent of big-data solutions and a next generation of data management capabilities — Hadoop, data lakes, DataOps, and modern data architectures — have been helpful but have not assured successful business adoption or outcomes. Technology does not appear to be a barrier or the problem. Only 9.1% of executives pointed to technology as the principal challenge to becoming data-driven.
Albert Einstein is said to have remarked, “The world cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” What is clear is that the greatest barrier to data success today is business culture, not lagging technology. In fact, cultural factors — that is, people and process issues — were cited by 90% of executives as the principal obstacle that they face.