JLL: How the world's leading companies are cultivating a new business culture


Investment in data analytics leads to a return of US$40m
Data champions in every department enable data-driven decision making at all levels
Training programme drives data literacy and fuels company wide innovation

The world's leading companies are cultivating a new business culture. Here, Paul Chapman (Global Director of Performance Management, BI and Innovation) and Simon Beaumont (Global Director, BI) at building management giant Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) explain how they’ve developed a thriving data culture in a recent article featured in The Economist.

This is an abridged version of that story - read more on the Tableau blog.

The world's leading companies are cultivating a new business culture

As the prime minister announced the UK’s nationwide lockdown from Downing Street, a lightbulb went out in the lobby of an apartment block on the other side of London.

Strategists at the building management giant JLL had foreseen it. the supplies to provide maintenance to their buildings. Within 24 hours of the prime minister’s announcement, JLL’s strategists were walking building managers through a plan for sharing resources and ensuring that their work could continue.

Over the past three years, Paul Chapman, JLL’s global director of business intelligence and technology, has worked to develop a data culture at the company. “Our facility managers can see the data for themselves, from showing them how old air conditioning units are and when they should be replaced, to how much each facility is costing per square foot.” Employees at every level of the company have access to this data through a dashboard, helping them to determine the root cause when problems arise and to figure out how to respond.

Even before the lockdown, the results had been significant. The investment in data analytics had seen a return of US$40m, which enabled the company to streamline compliance costs, reduce overheads and generate additional revenue through new initiatives.

Our facility managers can see the data for themselves, from showing them how old air conditioning units are and when they should be replaced, to how much each facility is costing per square foot.

Seeds of doubt: driving a company-wide movement

To grow strong, a data culture needs deep roots. Business leaders need to ensure that data is being used to inform employees’ decisions at every level of the company. A good way to do this is to spotlight individuals who are passionate about using data to solve challenges in their role. “Every single level of our company has a ‘data champion’,” explains JLL’s global director, Simon Beaumont. “As you go down our organisation, you find it isn’t just our analysts who are data champions. We have a concept called ‘positive deviance’, which celebrates people using data in a positive way. Those people will then be actively pushing their peers, asking them to do the same.”

Once employees are engaged, a company needs to invest in giving them the right training and programs to cultivate a data culture. Organising an effective training plan requires a strategic balancing act: make it too basic and you lose momentum; make it too hard and you risk alienating your less data-literate employees and exacerbating the skills gap.

Training is not just about technical skills. It’s also about how you think about data and develop a narrative around it... that’s a very different skill from being able to create a pretty table.

Keep on growing: sustaining wholesale change

“If you’re going to empower your business users to be data literate and have a culture of data, you don’t want them to be looking at data through a closed lens,” says Mr Beaumont. “That means they shouldn’t be looking at data to give them answers; they should be looking at it as an opportunity to ask questions and have conversations. So, in addition to the technical skills that we give them in terms of how to use a dashboard, we also try to challenge their perception of data. They may look at a dashboard and pick a number out and say, ‘I’m 97% compliant’. But actually, what we want them to say is, ‘What about the 3%? What is it that I need to ask to truly understand what that number is representing?’”

This mindset shift empowers employees to recognise the information that surrounds them as fuel for change, giving them the confidence to challenge business orthodoxy and develop new ways of working.

If you’re going to empower your business users to be data literate and have a culture of data, you don’t want them to be looking at data through a closed lens. That means they shouldn’t be looking at data to give them answers; they should be looking at it as an opportunity to ask questions and have conversations.