A Data Culture enabled by the cloud accelerates time-to-value

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Forbes.

Establishing a Data Culture—one in which teams value, practice, and encourage using data to make decisions—is a key step toward building a data-driven organization that thrives in today’s dynamic environment. 

But how can business leaders nurture that culture after it takes root? One way is to increase access to data and facilitate analysis and innovation by migrating to the cloud. Having data and analytics in the cloud removes barriers to access and trust while strengthening data governance. This influences important behavioral changes in how people use data to collaborate, innovate, and solve business problems. It ultimately improves organizational agility and resilience.

“By virtue of having your apps and data storage in the cloud, you’re helping to break down those silos that existed within organizations,” said Jennifer Belissent, principal data strategist at Snowflake, the provider of the Data Cloud, which is designed for storing, using, and delivering business value from data.

A move to the cloud is often referred to as a transformational journey for good reason—and many organizations migrate incrementally because they want to be strategic about proving the value of this investment. However, with recent disruption on a global scale, more enterprises are leaning into data for insights and clarity, which accelerates this transformation. And the cloud is a key element to their success. 

In fact, after Tableau moved to the cloud and chose Snowflake to host its data, technology team members had flexibility to concentrate on more strategic business intelligence efforts because many requests could be addressed with self-service analytics.

“Using technology to enable a wide variety of people to engage with data, to find insights, I think that's the modern evolution of business intelligence,” said Mark Jewett, senior vice president of product and partner marketing at Tableau. “And I think it's at the heart of a lot of data cultures that we see people building.”

Here are three ways the cloud injects energy and purpose into a Data Culture. The cloud strengthens Data Culture by ...

1. Governing data access and quality

Quantitative changes in the amount of data analyzed requires qualitative changes to how an organization operates and manages data. To strengthen a Data Culture and promote effective data use, organizations must provide secure access to authorized business users. The goal here is to make data accessible and traceable while deterring unwanted behavior, such as having users share data outside of governed channels because they felt the access was too restrictive. 

Cloud-based data architectures enable centralized storage, management, and governance at scale—supporting data democratization throughout enterprises. Cloud services include features for governance and data management, supported by automated policies. When users can easily tap into useful, clean, and accurate data, they work more efficiently and are more likely to trust its quality for decision making, rather than relying on gut instincts. 

2. Promoting data discovery and access

The cloud helps organizations augment and contextualize their data by seamlessly incorporating third-party data sets into different applications and workstreams where people spend most of their time. With combined data collection and greater access, employees across departments and levels get the same opportunities as data analysts to discover and contribute insights that move the needle for the business. 

This drives key Data Culture requirements, such as higher expectations for data literacy, greater trust in data, and wanting others to succeed with data. That commitment was reflected in Tableau’s cloud journey, during which its data scientists, engineers, and analysts became “data stewards” who addressed the evolving needs of business users.

3. Delivering powerful insights more quickly

Fostering a Data Culture involves leadership making operational and strategic decisions based on data-driven insights that they readily extract from different applications. For example, leaders can use operations data to identify inefficiencies in supply chains, manufacturing processes, and fleet operations. , Or, they can build machine learning models that use detailed customer data to make personalized, real-time sales recommendations. The benefit of the cloud is that it provides the flexible computing capacity to handle all of these fluctuating demands for data storage, access, and analysis—and both leadership, employees, and the business profit. 

Ultimately, the power of such insights, especially when socialized and celebrated, encourage wider adoption of data-driven decision making and inspires more people to use them when making valuable business contributions. The impact of this positive feedback loop was quantified in a Tableau-sponsored IDC survey of enterprise leaders. It found that data-leading companies—those on the leading edge of data use with a strong company-wide Data Culture—were 4.5 times more likely than data-aware organizations to use data to influence decisions1.

There is a very direct connection between cloud computing, building a Data Culture, and the speed with which we can operate our business.

“The competitive environment is changing. Consumer expectations are changing. And business models are changing to shift the way we deliver things. In that environment, it's more important to make smarter decisions faster. Bad decisions are clearly bad, but good decisions made too late are also bad; speed is critical. Building a data culture and modernizing with cloud computing elevates the speed of decision making and empowers your people to create success."

Do more with the cloud to extract more business value from data

Technology is only part of the story. For the organization to be insights-driven, the culture has to change. Cultural change means changing behaviors, and a focus on people and processes. Technology facilitates that change.

“Technology is really only part of the story. For an organization to be insights-driven, the culture has to change. Cultural change means changing behaviors and focusing on people and processes. Technology facilitates that change. Data governance establishes guidelines for data use, protecting data and building trust. Data literacy, including data-driven decision making, improves understanding of data and how to unlock its value. Data governance and data literacy go hand in hand to build a stronger data culture. And new cloud technologies make these transformations more accessible and easier.” 

Organizations can spark innovation by making data connections, and the cloud provides the building blocks that create synergy among disparate data sets along with influencing how teams work, think, and act. 

In a cloud computing infrastructure, discrete business intelligence teams are no longer chiefly responsible for performing analytics on behalf of everyone; that capability is now in everyone’s hands. There are also more instances of pairing business users who seek insights with the technologists who are experienced at finding them. These new, integrated teams are positioned to rapidly test, assess, and eventually choose new products and messaging that resonate with customers. With the dynamic data that shows how customers respond, these teams also have timely feedback they can use to test and readjust. This circular workflow follows a common mantra of agile teams: Fail fast, and iterate rapidly.

All business leaders have an essential role to play in transforming their Data Culture—whether they’re a chief executive, line-of-business leader or team manager. As your organization chooses its best path for success—whether it’s full migration to the cloud or a hybrid approach—and learns from others that modernized with the cloud, consult this cloud solutions page from Tableau. To learn what you can do in the data cloud, visit Snowflake’s Data Cloud page.

1. IDC WHITEPAPER, SPONSORED BY TABLEAU, HOW DATA CULTURE FUELS BUSINESS VALUE IN DATA-DRIVEN ORGANIZATIONS, DOC. #US47605621, MAY 2021.

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