Happy New Year 2021 dear readers.
Another year ahead of us and as life returns slowly to normal after a pandemic filled year in 2020, it is time to think about the data future of organizations, why this matters in this age of digital transformation and approaches companies can use to harness the power of data¹. This is where the data champion comes in. This discussion will explore the significance of data champions to enterprises.
A data champion facilitates the concepts of data governance and data management. They are responsible for driving the vision of a program, developing and implementing guidelines and ensuring data quality improvement through data stewardship.
They also help in mitigating non-cooperation and data issues that affect the business, helping with technical issues and aligning IT to the business goals that deliver business value. Data champions² achieve this by developing realistic timescales for obtaining #data.
Data Champions spearhead data culture within an organization. Sometimes they are an executive or senior leader, but oftentimes they are the boots-on-the-ground people who are passionate about promoting and improving data-informed decisions³ for their organization. They may be part of a business team, data team, or technology team. They may be extroverts or introverts.
Data Champions play a key role in helping translate between the business and their area of the organization to help drive data-usage when making decisions. They engage with business and technology partners to ensure they are smoothly working together. Further, Data Champions will have relationships with other current and future Data Champions including those not within the Chief Data Officer’s direct area.
Adata analytics champion advocates for the importance of collecting and leveraging data, supporting the use of data analysis in decision-making and actively promoting #dataanalytics best practices throughout the organization. The role encompasses equal parts organizational leadership, business process development, and data governance⁴.
In order to be successful, the data champion must become an agent of change who disseminates the analytics strategy⁵ and creates a culture where everyone is comfortable taking advantage of databased insights to improve the quality and effectiveness of their business decisions.
Accordingly, data champions are skilled at working with business leaders to build trust in the analytics solutions. In addition, they communicate the benefits that data can provide, the results that the organization has gotten from analytics investments, and they communicate the vision for the future.
What does a Data Champion do?
Organizations approach the role of data champions differently and the important goal is to ensure that regardless of the model used, the organization achieves its stipulated governance framework objectives.
Some companies spearhead the role of the #datachampion while others instill the influence of the data champion through becoming part of data teams, departments and C-suite⁶ decisions.
Let us explore the roles of a data champion and why organizations need them in 2021
1. Collaborative Culture
The data champion must also focus on breaking down corporate silos, both databased and culture-based. These lingering cultural or technological barriers can hurt data integrity, and handicap data strategies. A collaborative culture enables employees to share insights and best practices across the organization and utilize databased insights to make informed decision in critical moments. Ultimately, collaboration provides rich context to key metrics and can uncover opportunities for improvement.
2. Transformation and Deploying Tools
The need for a data champion often becomes acute when an organization is upgrading or buying a new business intelligence or data analytics system⁷. This is another example of a natural resistance to change that data champions will need to overcome to implement and execute a cohesive data strategy.
Business intelligence and data analytics systems are likely at the center of a data strategy, as they are the tools that transform raw data into actionable insights. Often, it falls to the data champion to evaluate and choose that will support the overall data strategy. For this reason, it is important that data champions are familiar with modern technologies and remain informed as these technologies develop and evolve.
3. Education and Communication
Creating buy-in for data analysis is a necessary step towards gaining company-wide insights, but champions will also need to take this a step further by enabling others to incorporate company metrics into their day-to-day activities.
If used properly, access to databased insights will empower all levels of an organization to make informed decisions. Analytics champions must promote effective #datagovernance, security, and privacy through documented business processes so that everyone can access and use data efficiently within an acceptable framework.
4. Problem Solving and Direction
The very nature of advancing a data agenda can be disruptive. Embracing data can mean disrupting business relationships, power structures, even the work itself. Many will be uncomfortable learning new skills and building new relationships. Given the disruption that a data champion can cause, resistance is not surprising.
In fact, resistance to change can be the biggest challenge a data champion will face. An effective champion must listen to and address concerns from every level of the organization by answering the “What’s in it for me?” question without sacrificing overarching goals.
5. Execution of Analytics Model
Remember that the job of a data champion is often in addition to that employee’s daily responsibilities. Allowing data champions to define the role within the framework of their own strengths, interests and workload gives ownership to the employee to set out objectives that are realistic and motivating. Ensuring then that the data champion has a strong understanding of their company’s analytics strategy then helps to clarify their contribution in delivering on the company’s analytics strategy.
The C-Suite and Data Culture
With more and more data available to organizations, data-driven thinking is becoming critical and can mean significant change. Across departments, functional areas, and teams, a major data project will require new ways of doing things, new approaches to solving problems⁸ and making decisions, and new indicators of how success is measured.
Without the commitment from executives and leaders, your data project is not going to reach its full potential. That’s why being able to effectively tell the story behind the data and communicate more than just the numbers themselves is such an important skill for anyone championing a major data project.
Working with a knowledgeable #dataanalyst who not only understands the data, but also the implications behind it, can help you craft this story and tailor your presentation in a way that you will be able to create excitement and enthusiasm for your project going forward.
Data Story Telling in 2021
Here is one truth: The most compelling people are also usually the best storytellers. We look for stories in everything that we do, and research has shown that we are hard-wired to respond to stories. The data itself is simply the jumping-off point.
By creating a narrative around this data, you are adding context. You are telling the why behind the what, the meaning behind the numbers, and the reasons behind the recommendations you are making.
When communicating your results, make connections between the data and the business outcomes you expect to achieve. Link your results to the challenges your organization has been facing, or the opportunities that are out there if you make the right decisions. Frame your story as a journey; where we are today, where we want to go, and what we need to do to get there.
Data champions should be empowered at all times. An empowered, professional, curious and passionate worker is an asset in any organization. Encouraging employees to perform at their highest level is something everyone should aspire to, not just those wanting to revolutionize data strategy and culture. The reason companies put so much thought into empowering data champions is that we know how important they are in a company’s journey to become #datadriven.
Whether you are just starting down that path, or are well on your way, identifying and empowering employees who are eager to help in the journey should be a key part of any analytics strategy. Organizations sometimes undermine training programs for data champions because they are seen as the data experts within their teams. However, giving them access to e-learning tools, certification programmers will raise the bar on their skills, while continuing to inspire and motivate them in their work.