The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming More Data Driven At Work

Posted on Posted in Becoming a More Data Driven Organization, Data and evidence, We Think, What Do You Think?

This is the second post in The Becoming a Data Driven Organization series. The first post was an introduction to a different approach to organizational behaviour and culture. The post, Moneyballing the Non-profit and Social Enterprise Sectors can be found here.


Becoming More Data Driven At Work

How do you make decisions at work? How does your organization make decisions? Can you recall the last time data was presented with a proposal? How comfortable are you / your organization with collecting data, analyzing data, reporting data and/or leveraging it to determine or reach strategic goals? Does the thought of Excel or that database the student / consultant built years ago automatically spike your blood pressure?


What does it mean to be data driven? More importantly, why should you invest the time and resources of your organization into being data driven? The second post in this series will dive into what it means to be data driven, what benefit it can provide and how you can quickly assess your organization.


A data driven organization is an organization that has moved beyond reporting to embed analysis in its approach as well as its culture. It has shifted from a focus on the what – what services or products do we offer? To a what’s next or forward looking approach. Pairing a data driven approach with an engagement strategy to validate the results and hunches with management, staff, and users can strengthen the meaningfulness of the analysis and provide unique insight(s) into possible next steps. To learn more about this approach, check out the blog post on transparent and participatory decision-making here.


Self-Assessment – Where Does Your Organization Fit?

Below is an 8 step framework to help identify where your organization may sit with respect to being data phobic, data friendly or data driven. It is premised upon the Analytical Value Chain (see figure below). These steps are not necessarily mutually exclusive, so elements of work can fit in different steps. The goal here is to assess where the organization sits in general and what immediate action can be taken with minimal effort for additional value.


The first four steps in the framework capture reactive decision making and the reporting section of the value chain. These steps are characterized by a focus on the present and the knowns. Examples are provided below. How many of these reports do you recognize from your organization? How frequently and broadly are they circulated? What is the purpose of the report? Is it to comply with a reporting requirement or is it a tool used to evaluate and inform?


StepToolAnswers the question…Example
1Standard reportsWhat happened?
What actions are needed now?

Organizational Annual Report
2Ad-hoc reportsHow many, how often?End of month/quarter/year summary
3Structured or custom reportsWhere exactly is the problem?
Google Analytics report
4AlertsWhat actions are needed now?Notification that your website is down


The second four steps are focused on proactive decision making. These steps align with the analytical section of the value chain. The objective at this level is to use analytics to optimize data and trigger action(s).


StepMethodAnswers the question…Example
5Statistical analysisWhat is happening in a given time period? What has changed over time?

Demographic trends of users; new users vs. existing patterns
6ForecastingWhat if these trends continue?Grant funding received over time.
Client profile trends over time
7Predictive ModelingWhat will happen next?
Combining current client usage trends and gov’t data (i.e. age groups in a neighbourhood), what could my program or service look like in 5 years?
8OptimaizationHow do we do things better? What is the best decision for a complex problem?Demographic trends of users; new users vs. existing patterns



Why Should You Care?

  • With fewer funding dollars and a growing offering of comparable products and services, there is a need to be able to define, distinguish, measure and report on the impact your organization is having.
  • This approach is not fueled by snake oil or fairy dust. The skills, tools and tactics requires to act competently in this area are both low cost and require a minimal investment of time to learn.


Ok, But Where Do I Start?

What is the one thing that you can do right now to step towards a more data-driven approach? You may want to review the 8 step spectrum above and download our free data readiness self-assessment tool that can help you to better understand how your organization uses data and engagement in learning and decision-making. How did you assess your organization? How might you learn more, experiment, partner or implement something to get you one step closer to the next level? Who can you meet with to validate your results? What value would that bring to you? Your team? Your boss? The board? The organization?


Ready to dive in? Download our Data Readiness Self-Assessment Tool to get started.


Not sure what that next step might look like? Interested in the general approach, but not sure where your organization ranks? Are you a secret data ninja who is struggling to gain traction in your organization? We Think is committed to helping you increase your reporting, analytical and engagement capacity.  Please drop us a line or leave a comment with your questions, your feedback and your insights.


In the next post in this series we will talk about the types of information you would need to increase your analytical capacity and move up to the next step in the data analytics value chain.


Note: This post was inspired by Carl Anderson’s Creating Data Driven Organization book. Although Anderson’s book is targeted to the for-profit sector, but We Think believes the approach and potential value of adopting the principles of a data driven organization apply to any organization operating in any sector.


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