No more excuses: Resolutions for better data practice in 2020

Companies should use the turn of the decade as a chance to make resolutions to become a stronger, more future-fit business - and that means becoming more data-driven.

This is a contributed article by James Eiloart, Senior Vice President, EMEA, Tableau 

The dawn of a new decade is an excellent opportunity for a ‘fresh start', especially for businesses putting off changes they know, deep down, are necessary.

The 2020s will be a comprehensively data-driven and analytics-enabled era. The demographics of UK workforces are shifting towards younger, digitally literate staff, and businesses will be competing to put insight into action at ever greater speed.  

Now is the time to set clear resolutions to become more organised, adaptable and collaborative. Above all, it's time to elevate the data proficiency of your workforce.  

Here are four suggestions to help you transform your business' data culture and analytical proficiency.

Declutter & organise: improving data management 

As modern analytics deployments grow, IT is faced with the challenge to curate, manage, and promote ever larger volumes of data. People from across the business are similarly struggling to find the relevant, trusted and up-to-date information they need for effective analysis. Untapping more potential from data for decision-making, improving customer experience and revenue-generation is a never-ending challenge.

Traditional data management processes no longer work. There's no excuse to delay ‘tidying things up', making it easier to manage, maintain and analyse larger, and more diverse data. For today's analytics strategies to succeed and scale, organisations need to shift their approach to data management by improving visibility and helping employees find trusted data.

Organising data doesn't mean storing it away in silos - quite the opposite. Think of a well-organised workshop. Having your businesses' data cleaned and sorted means that employees can quickly find the data they need and know they can trust it. This also means that IT can better manage the proliferation of larger, more complex data sources, while those analysing the data can do so with confidence. 

Learn to communicate better: Incorporating natural language/ conversational analytics 

2019 saw natural language capabilities becoming more common, with ‘conversational' tools unlocking better customer experience, insights, and more intuitive ways to get answers to questions about data.

In the 2020s, NLP has matured as a component of analytics, and there is now no need to have programming skills in order to have a productive dialogue with data. Companies need to connect their entire workforce to the kind of self-service analytics that enables faster access to business insight.

As natural language matures within the data analytics industry, 2020 will present opportunities to get people even closer to their data. Companies should commit to incorporating technologies and a mindset that removes barriers to these conversations.

Be more charitable:  share data for good 

Data has fundamentally changed the way businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and non-profits operate. While the public sector has previously led the charge on using data for good, the movement has taken its hold on private sector organisations who want to make a bigger impact. 

The Telecoms multinational Orange offers a recent example of creating projects using data-driven insights to further social good. With Project OPAL, Orange created a governance committee, in partnership with local governments, to regulate how data is collected, anonymised and protected. With this established, they were able to securely find insights from call records and share them with local organisations in a safe and secure way. In Senegal, this data was used to understand literacy rates based on text message use, helping local organisations make resource decisions about education programs.

This is just one example of how an open, collaborative approach to data can bring about important change - but it's also an investment that can offer strong returns. According to McKinsey, connecting data across institutional and geographic boundaries could create roughly US $ 3 trillion annually in economic value by 2020. Businesses that invest in technology, increase data literacy, and focus on collaboration are developing a thriving, creative environment to solve some of the world's most difficult problems.

Be the change you want to see in the world: building a data culture 

Every business wants to get the most out of its data, but currently only 8% are succeeding at scaling their analytics. The secret to effective change is culture: shifting mindsets, attitudes, and habits to place data at the centre of your organisation. January 2020 should be the moment you set out a clear framework for data culture including values and practices. 

Building trust is a good place to start. Encouraging shared access, transparency and good governance immediately inspires confidence in the power of data. Trust and governance create the foundation of a healthy data culture as it means that teams can make business decisions, having confidence in their data.

With trust in place, leaders should encourage collaboration with data across teams by giving time and space for staff to work together to solve data questions, share insights and best practice. The act of sharing generates an infectious energy and helps foster a sense of community and learning. Knowing that leadership supports such collaboration helps employees feel more comfortable to experiment, learn quickly and challenge decisions not backed by data. Within an environment of experimentation and innovation, failing and learning is celebrated, so that everyone is welcome and inspired to work with data.

James Eiloart is Senior Vice President, EMEA, at Tableau. With over 25 years in the software industry, building international sales teams and strong partner ecosystems, Eiloart has held executive positions in sales, channel, strategic alliances, and marketing. Since 2012, he has led Tableau's development and growth across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Prior to Tableau, Eiloart was SVP Global sales at Alterian building and running sales and marketing for both EMEA and Asia Pacific.