How to Cultivate a Data Culture

How to Cultivate a Data Culture

The data you collect, store, use, share, manage, and retrieve is essential to your operations. And yet, if your team was asked to list the most critical elements of their jobs, would data make the list?

For agencies that have already built a strong data culture, the answer would be an emphatic Yes. These teams know that for their data to work for them, they need to work together to ensure its accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. It’s a team effort, and every team member needs to take personal responsibility for your agency’s data quality. For most agencies, that kind of focus requires a fundamental culture shift.

Five Ways to Cultivate a Data Culture

Culture change isn’t fast, and it isn’t easy. Here are some ways you can begin cultivating a culture in your agency that values data:

  • Do a data inventory. Start with a full inventory of what you’re collecting, why/how/when you’re collecting it, where it is stored, how it’s retrieved, who retrieves it, etc. Understand your playing field and work to spot any discrepancies, inefficiencies, or gaps you may face.
  • Educate your team. This goes far beyond the “data is important” message. Each person on your team needs to internalize why data is so important, what the consequences are for your community when data is incomplete or inaccurate, how their job connects explicitly to your agency’s essential data, and how they can take personal responsibility for ensuring the highest data standards. Help each team member build a direct line of sight between their work and positive community impacts.
  • Define your standards. If each person is going to work toward ensuring high data quality standards, it’s critical that you define what those standards are. Ensure everyone can identify broken, questionable, missing, or otherwise compromised data and teach them what they can do about it. Set high and attainable standards, and give everyone on the team the tools they need to achieve those standards.
  • Prioritize data. Prioritize it, and talk candidly about your priorities. Data should be at the top of your list of strategic and valuable assets, and everyone in your agency should know it. When you talk about data as part of your culture, make sure it’s embedded into your goals, your mission and values, and all the other ways you communicate to internal and external stakeholders about what is important to your agency.
  • Invest in talent. While data is everyone’s responsibility, it also helps if you have a few pros helping you chart your course and troubleshoot along the way. Invest in the right talent to ensure you have the resources you need to manage your data effectively.

As you well know, YOUR data is only one piece of the puzzle. Building trust and collaborating with outside stakeholders and data-sharing partners is nearly as important as building your own data-centered culture. But you have to start somewhere, and your team is a good place to begin.

Making a culture shift takes time. When you need support along the way, we’re here. Contact our team of data experts to talk through your plans, challenges, and needs. We’re here to help.