Create a Data-Driven Culture by Influencing 3 Areas

Establishing a data-driven culture is a matter of influencing mindset and behaviors rather than of control.

Christine was recently appointed chief data officer (CDO) in a retail organization in the U.K. to develop a data-driven strategy. Her predecessor was mainly focused on supplying data to the business, but Christine knows the real goal is to drive business value from the data and analytics programs by providing insights based on the data. 

“The benefits of a data-driven culture is to examine and organize the data with the goal of better serving one organization’s customers and consumers,” says Alan Duncan, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “It also bolsters and speeds up business decision-making processes.”

CDOs need to create concrete, measurable metrics that link data and analytics initiatives to information, business and stakeholder value

To establish a data-driven culture change in your organization, engage with stakeholders to secure buy-in and ongoing support in treating data as an asset — not data as a byproduct.

CDOs need to show leadership in three areas of influence: business value, cultural change impacts and ethical implications.

Gartner: Data-Driven Culture Change - 3 Areas of Influence

Identify and communicate the business value of data

Most executives admit that their organizations mismanage their information assets, leading to missed business opportunities and undue expense. CDOs must measure information’s key quality attributes, which include accuracy, validity, usability and its relevance to key business processes. At the same time, they need to determine the actual impact on business KPIs to better prioritize and support information asset management initiatives.

Create an information catalog to showcase to business stakeholders what data is available to the organization. CDOs can then show what both its internal and external datasets are used for, allowing CDOs to identify (with their business partners) opportunities to use existing data in more innovative ways.

CDOs must act as catalysts in the business model by identifying the areas of business change where they will obtain the most value from data, then tracking the accruing outcomes and benefits.

Address the cultural change impacts of a data-driven approach

As part of establishing a data-driven culture, CDOs should be responsible for the culture change to support the transformation. But they cannot simply tell people to change their culture — they must inspire people to believe that change is necessary. To address and influence culture change, be explicit about how data influences different styles of decision making. Some strategic decisions are highly uncertain and are reversible; others are necessary and irreversible.

In addition, CDOs must be clear about how to engage with data. Work with business stakeholders to clarify and reframe business problems. Review those problems in terms of explicit outcomes, with definitions of targeted business roles, decisions and impact on business moments.

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CDOs need to create concrete, measurable metrics that link data and analytics initiatives to information, business and stakeholder value. Start data and analytics initiatives with a baseline measurement of the “as-is” state, and show a clear path to financial and business objective contributions.

Ineffective communication and influence routinely derail CDOs’ ability to develop buy-in, gain traction in their role and change behavior. Create a communication and influence plan for each major CDO initiative that identifies stakeholders and decision makers.

Manage the ethical implications of data and analytics

Establish a code of conduct that defines ethical guidelines for the use of data and analytics. Balance the opportunities and limitations between the benefits of data and analytics and the ethical and privacy risks they pose. Finally, be clear about any trust expectations.

Gartner clients can read more in How Chief Data Officers Show Leadership in Improving Data Literacy and Fostering a Data-Driven Culture by Alan Duncan, et al.


More information on the future of data and analytics can be found in the Gartner Featured Insight research collection “The Future of Data and Analytics Is Now,” a collection of research that explores new strategies, guidance and best practices across the data and analytics spectrum.

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