6 ways to run a more data-driven organisation
Nick Francis Managing Director, Consulting
Which of the selected activities will help you the most in running a more data-driven organisation?


Over twenty years ago one of my first roles was with a telecommunications company which, quite by accident, turned in to a role focused solely on creating management information and stats. At the time, little was I to know that this discipline was going to be a major element of my career for the next two decades to present day and will no doubt continue to be for the remainder of it. This role definitely made me a subscriber to the old ethos “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” as one of my former managers and mentors told me on many occasions.

Knowledge is power some say but first to get the knowledge you need to obtain information. If you plan to do anything with the information to affect future outcomes on the source from where the information came from then this falls into three categories. These categories are management information (MI), business intelligence (BI) and more recently a newer word that seems to have paved the way for a number of new data-driven technology solutions is Insight.

Insight, along with MI and BI, are areas of real interest to me. Driving the continual evolution of the MI through established feedback loops is more about the execution of what it highlights rather than the act of producing metrics, as you may first be led to believe.

Allow me to elaborate. it is widely accepted in nearly every industry, area of business and discipline that where there is a desire to improve it is best practice to establish metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These metrics and indicators are intimately linked back to the desired outcomes of the overarching objectives or strategy from the area in question. All KPIs are formed through analysis of one or more data points in a certain way, and setting thresholds where depending if it’s a leading or lagging indicator if breached has a positive or negative consequence, either way, potentially highlighting and initiating a call to action.

Up to this point if this type of activity isn’t something that your organisations focuses on at a team, department and organisation level it’s pretty clear that the culture isn’t going to be intent on becoming data-driven and lacks the basic management metrics to help drive continual improvement through feedback loops. I am pleased to say that this isn’t the case for many who have invested heavily in traditional BI and MI solutions and more recently newer more flexible and semi-automated Insight platforms. If fed the right set of data sources and maintained, these solutions and platforms do the KPI creation part very well, and it is here that I find the most interesting and the more common failing. These processes, aforementioned solutions and platforms are turning data into a backlog of meaningful management information and insight but it is the third part to this sequence that really lacks focus. It goes Data, Insight, Action, it’s the third word I wish to focus on.

Day to day I meet a lot of very well informed people that are in possession of some very relevant metrics and insight data but are regularly frustrated by the limited ability they have to drive the action required to continually improve the metric. When I hear this it is almost universally because those producing the MI, BI or Insights are rarely the same teams that produce the data, and that team, who have the ability to drive the action derived from the initial insight, are commonly incentivised or measured in a way that’s not data-driven or by a different set of metrics all leading to increased friction internally and siloed thinking and knowledge management.

The irony here is that the people doing the work are far too busy managing the process and workflow to make the improvements that they will ultimately end up benefiting from. I always end up visualising graphics that I regularly see on social media that I have crudely enhanced below to help make my point.

So if you find that you are in a similar position the great news is that there are several things that you can look at implementing over time that will support the cultural change required to begin making the required capacity and amendments to your operating model. Unfortunately, the bad news is that its a lot like getting in shape and building muscle the key is constant monitoring and tweaking as near to the source of activity as possible coupled with keeping disciplined and consistent in the approach, only this will result in the outcome desired and alleviate the aforementioned issues.

There are more but the following 6 suggested activities that may help you include;

  1. Define the metrics that underpin your business/services objectives aligned, where possible, to best practice based Frameworks and policies or those who have been successful in the same field before.
  2. Align your operating model to take into consideration reporting for process improvement with feedback loops directly embedded in the process operation.
  3. Allow capacity for this to happen within the operation by optimising and automating other menial workflow data and administrative tasks or stop tasks that are not adding any business value when measured objectively.
  4. Manage the entire operation at a team and individual at the personal development level based on what the metrics are showing, embedding them culturally into the organisation
  5. Incentivise and reward organic improvements made in the line where what the data showed has been acted upon without top-down assistance or pressure.
  6. Introduce and leverage gamification in your teams that are built upon the metrics that you care most about. I’m guessing that you are not in Sales where this is commonplace so try to get inspiration by talking to someone that is.
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