You’ve probably heard about how we’re living in the age of Big Data by now. Even if you haven’t, chances are you can see it on your own. Businesses of all sizes are now able to gather information from all kinds of sources to later analyze it and gain insights. The benefits of doing so seem endless: companies can identify new business opportunities, adjust their inner processes, refine their marketing strategies, predict future trends, create better maintenance schedules and much more.
However, to get all those benefits, companies need to know how to handle that data – and that’s the tricky part. Though there are several digital platforms, tools, and applications to do so, they all still require your employees to know why they are using them and how to do so. That’s an issue you can’t neglect. There’s so much data coming from so many sources that you have to find a way for your team to make sense out of it.
That’s why many businesses are turning to data visualization tools. We, as humans, are inherently visual, so it feels only natural for that data and its findings to be organized in graphics and pictures. Putting complex information in bar charts, scatter plots, heat maps and other images makes it more accessible and understandable, even for people that aren’t accustomed to working with a lot of data types.
Hence the importance of fostering a data visualization culture within your business. You won’t just be gathering large data sets to be analyzed by your experts – you’ll be encouraging everyone to be a part of the process. From the top executives to sales members, everyone should embrace data visualization as a way to be more efficient and strategic in their daily tasks.
But – how to get everyone on board?
You can’t force a data visualization culture onto your team. That’s because you’re surely working with wildly different people, from the data enthusiasts to its most ardent opponents and the ones that actually don’t care that much. You need all of them to be on board for data visualization to perform at its peak. Is this possible? The following 5 keys can help you do it. And though it might take time, you’ll see that it’s not just possible – it’s desirable.
1. It’s up to you to lead the way
If you’re reading this article, it’s highly likely that you are already convinced of the need to shift your business to a data visualization culture that makes the most out of its insights. So, it’ll be up to you to do the heavy lifting and show them the way. You’ll have to become an example for them all!
Of course, leading the way in such a manner will depend on the role you have within your company. It’s not the same to be the owner than to be the head of marketing. However, there are suggestions that can come in handy in spite of the position you have. For instance, you can institute a training center of sorts where you teach your team to understand data visualization and see its benefits.
Also, you should take the charge to make data analysis and dashboards accessible across your business. Use them for training so everyone can see how the insights that can be pulled from there can develop into strategies, informed decisions, and monitoring controls for daily tasks. By doing that, you’re showing that the data isn’t empty but that it’s full of valuable resources.
2. Convince the suits
One of the best things you can do to drive the shift towards a data visualization culture is to get the executives in your company on board. You surely can see why. If the heads of the business believe in data visualization, they’ll put all the resources available for you to foster the change. It’s not until one of them is convinced that the paradigm change can begin.
Wondering if that will be easy? Of course it won’t. Though there are certain executive types that are prone to listen to new trends and be bold enough to adopt them, many of them also feel comfortable with how things have traditionally worked. These are the hardest to convince, as they mostly believe in their instincts, their methods or their own personal way of seeing the data rather than the data itself.
How can you get through to them? By speaking their language. Showing them how a data-driven approach can get more sales, more customers, and more efficient ways of doing things. Use successful case studies and even your own experience with data in your business to back up all your claims.
3. Evangelize from the champions to the naysayers to everything in between
After securing that executive buy-in, it’ll be time to get the rest of the people to embrace the change. For that to happen, the best you can do is to start on the extremes. Though it might sound counterintuitive to some, doing so has a purpose. That’s why you first have to go for the champions and the naysayers.
The champions are the people that are already convinced about the power of data visualization. That may be because they use it on a daily basis, are data enthusiasts or simply because of the hint at the power of such practice. You should definitely invite them to join your cause, as they’ll help you spread the word about what you’re doing and why it’s important.
On the other hand, go for the naysayers – the people that believe that data visualization culture is a waste of time. These are the ones that will give you a fight over what you’re doing, so you’ll have to be as prepared as when you went for the executives. What’s the best ally to win them over? Showing how data visualization can help them get insights about their individual jobs. Display metrics related to their roles, teach them how they can improve them with data, and put them at the center of the story you’re telling.
One last thing – evangelization takes time. You won’t be able to convert people overnight. You’ll have to be persistent.
4. Create a story surrounding the change—and make it emotional
When you go out to convince people about the importance of data visualization, you’ll come to a bitter realization – a lot of people couldn’t care less about data. After all, what’s the relevance of loose pieces of information? That’s why you have to tell a story and make it appealing to your team’s emotions. That’s the only way to get them to care.
This seems contradictory because data is something concrete and objective. However, you can combine both data and emotion in that story by showing people a mirror within data visualization. In other words, you can use data images to tell your team’s story. What does that even mean?
For instance, you can create a visual history of performance for a certain area and pinpoint specific moments where certain actions were taken. You can make that moment personal by appealing to the people from that area, recalling how they got there, why they made that decision, and showing them the results so they can see their contribution to the company in an easy way. You should focus on good things, like when a change in the sales dept methods resulted in more leads. It’s not the same for the team to see themselves in a spike than in a descending curve.
Naturally, you should tie that story to what can happen in the future if you listen to the data. For that, you can use projections informed by the data itself. Once again, it’s highly important to make the team a part of those projections, so it’ll be up to you to tell the story by keeping people in the spotlight so they can see themselves in the data images.
5. Keep the training going
Let’s say you got everyone on board. People are sharing data and insights, departments across your business are now experts in pulling ideas and suggestions from data sets, and collaboration is smooth and flowing. Does that mean your work is done? Not quite.
You surely suspect that changes over time will be unavoidable. New analytic methods can appear, new data tools can be integrated into the process, new ways of visualizing the information can be adopted – even new employees can be hired on different teams. That means that, while the work won’t be as intensive as the early stages, you’ll have to keep a vigilant eye to keep things flowing.
Constant monitoring, adjustment, and training is the key to a healthy long-term data visualization culture that can get you the benefits promises by the age of Big Data.
Changing an entire business to embrace data visualization culture can be a challenging endeavor, especially in incumbent companies or certain traditional industries, like the manufacturing industry. However, given the huge advantages of using data-driven insights for most modern brands, it’s a step you’ll have to take whether you like it or not.
Doing that will require a lot of effort to get executives on board and overcome all the resistance that you’ll surely meet down the line. You’ll have to stay focused, learn how to use data visualization to tell a positive story about the company and its potential future, and create an emotional appeal for people to start seeing what you already know: that data visualization culture is now a requirement to prevent your business from falling behind your competitors.