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There are thousands of articles written about the importance of using data in business and finding success. I’ve written about it several times. Some businesses have been able to capitalize on big data and analytics and have been able to improve the decision-making process across the organization. But despite the few gleaming success stories, I’m still seeing failing data initiatives on a regular basis. With all of the information available and a ton of brilliant strategies in the works, why are initiatives still failing? What’s holding back the change?
According to Gartner, in 2016, 60 percent of data initiatives would fail. However, by the end of 2017, they realized quickly that this number was much closer to 85 percent. That’s a huge statistic! And while I’m a firm believer in the positive aspects of failing, these failing data initiatives are hurting companies. So what can be done about it? I think there are a few key reasons the failing data initiatives keep adding up. Let’s take a look and see what can be done to solve these issues.
Lack of Supporting Culture
Businesses often lack a culture that supports data-driven decisions. Instead of compiling the data and letting it work for them, they often make decisions based gut feelings rather than data. When data initiatives are put into motion, they fail because the organization is not ready for this new decision-making process. If leaders aren’t trusting the data, why should employees?
When it comes to changing your business’ culture, it must start from the top and then move down. As a business owner, it is up to you to be the starting point for any critical changes. You must lead by example. Begin by using data to fuel your own decisions, trusting it as the science that makes your organization tick. It might be weird to rely on a computer or analytics to help make your decisions, but once you see the results I promise you won’t go back to your gut—and soon your organization will follow suit.
Ignored Middle Manager and Employee Feedback
Speaking of changing from the top down, it is critical that your entire organization is involved in the data strategy process. Often, executives attempt to make all of the decisions without consulting the ones who deal with the data on a daily basis. I’ve seen this too many times to count. Mid-level managers are seeing the data and probably have ideas on how it can be used effectively, but are never asked for their opinions.
If you’ve never asked for feedback from people in your organization stop what you’re doing right now and go ask. You might be collecting unnecessary data that’s just slowing down your process or you might not be collecting the right data. Whatever the situation is, create open lines of communication throughout your organization. Employees and middle managers will need to ask questions, voice concerns, and give opinions if you want your initiatives to be successful. Involving all critical members in strategy meetings and projects will make a huge difference.
Overwhelmed Data Swamps
To be able to garner a ton of insights from your database is an amazing feat. Big data does hold big promise for every industry out there. However, too much data can quickly turn into a data swamp. Data swamps are useless, difficult to manage, produce headaches for your team and a leading culprit of failing data initiatives.
You should work hard to keep data clean and organized, otherwise, the data holds little to no value for your initiatives, wasting time and money. There are various ways to keep this from happening such as defining your data goal, defining who is in charge of collecting data, creating it searchable and automating your database whenever possible. Think you’re already in the midst of a data swamp? I’ve detailed six easy ways to help clean it up and get you back on track.
I’m going to just say it—silos suck. Data silos might be my least favorite. If one department in your company is collecting data, but not sharing it with other departments, you’ve got a problem. It does not benefit any department except the one that it is in. Marketing data could help the sales team make decisions and vice versa. People analytics from HR could help companies develop effective teams. But if the data isn’t being shared, you’re going to hit a dead end.
One of the big issues with silos is no one is there to bring order to the chaos. Hiring a Chief Data Officer will allow you to eliminate these silos, helping each department to make educated decisions with your data. CDOs bring the order you need. They work with other CXOs to create action plans for your data. They work solely on managing what happens with your data, how it is collected and where it goes. This assures each department in your organization that the data they receive is imperative to their work—one person can change your entire organization and turn failing data initiatives into success stories.
Too Much Data or Too Little Data
Are you sure you’re collecting the data you need? Do you have too much? Not enough? When you are gathering data on every parameter you can imagine, you eventually become overrun with useful data mixed with useless data. Gleaning insights turns into finding a needle in a haystack. At the same time, you could be scared to overwhelm your team and fail to collect enough data, hamstringing your team as they try to make decisions.
Simply identify the data you actually need. Like I said previously, talk to your employees. Open the lines of communication and find out what data they think they need to make decisions. Also, with consumers now hyperaware of where their data goes, it is best practice to choose wisely. Take the time to identify key areas where you can make improvements. Then, use data to further those improvements. As time moves on, you can adjust your strategy as needed.
Failing Data Initiatives Solved
Even though initiatives fail, a changed culture, enhanced communication and a bit of strategy can keep you on the up and up. Don’t let failed data initiatives hold your organization back any longer. Strategize, plan and get results—who knows, maybe one day I’ll be writing about your data success story.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.