Editor’s note: This is part of a series about the data economy. Specifically, how Data Economy Leaders are tackling the organizational and cultural shifts to align people, process, and technology with their business strategy to become a data-first business.

What is a data culture? A data culture is about establishing a shared core value around data-driven decisions, where people at all levels, across departments, and geographic boundaries of an organization can securely access and share data to produce the best outcomes. A data culture permeates an organization and is driven from the top down. As we discussed in How to Become a Data Economy Leader: The Rise of the CDO, executive support is crucial to success in the data economy, representing the global supply and demand for live data, data applications, and data services.

So, how is a data culture created? By promoting data accessibility and data literacy, and going all in on a data-first strategy. This requires a strong commitment from leadership to connect the dots for the average business user. If it’s done well, the whole organization will understand the value of data-driven insights. 

About two-thirds (68%) of Data Economy Leaders have a CDO—Chief Data Officer—to spearhead the building of a data culture. These C-suite officers are focused on what the business can do with the data, while other critical tasks such as security and compliance are left mostly to other roles. Other key attributes of Data Economy Leaders are data and analytics leadership, and the commitment to a company-wide data literacy and training programs—79% of Data Economy Leaders had a data literacy program that extended to all employees.

A successful data culture facilitates unimpeded access to data (with governance over accessibility restrictions where necessary, of course), and the ability to share data throughout a business ecosystem. This data-first approach, when continually endorsed by executive leadership, is perhaps the most important quality of Data Economy Leaders; it helps teams have a north star to aim for amidst the many changes we all must navigate in the economy, in our respective markets, and within our businesses. 

This is all largely about getting data widely dispersed beyond the realm of just data scientists, engineering, or IT. The Data Economy Leaders are better at this—62% have a data or analytics center of excellence that coordinates data policies, and 54% enable users to access all available data through a single system or application. Before the data culture can proliferate, data silos are broken down through technology and processes that allow for highly governed data sharing, including access to live data sources so all stakeholders work from the same, near real-time information. In organizations with intentional data cultures, data informs product development, marketing, and financial decisions and can become a regular part of the employee experience.

And a data-first mindset can help a company advance its digital transformation initiatives as well. Kraft Heinz is just one example—in 2019 the company completed a migration from its on-premises data centers to the cloud in only 9 months, a feat that not long before would have taken years. As described in the report, Kraft Heinz credits this rapid transformation pre-pandemic with inspiring the company to accelerate its ongoing transformation in 2020 with a commitment to develop new mindsets, hire new talent, and help its people learn new data-savvy skills.

Another key element in building a data culture is analytics leadership. Companies that excel at this are able to use data to advance strategic goals, such as offering more personalized marketing campaign experiences for prospective customers or identifying new business opportunities. The data culture also strives for alignment of data strategy objectives across the organization so that people in all functional areas work toward common goals. This process piece is critical—successful data cultures demonstrate clear data governance, clear standards for data analytics (often with a dedicated team to help promote and guide the use of data in the company), and by making data accessible, such as via internal data exchanges or marketplaces.

And why does it matter? Research shows this produces better outcomes. Snowflake’s recent research report, How to Win in Today’s Data Economy, found that the leaders in today’s emerging data economy all had, or were working toward, creating an impactful data culture, driving innovation, operational efficiency, and even revenue. These Data Economy Leaders are achieving significantly better business results than their peers. For example, 77% of Data Economy Leaders experienced annual revenue growth over the past three years, while just 36% of Data Economy Laggards (the lower-performing survey group) could say the same. Moreover, 60% of Leaders saw their market share grow over this period, compared with only 31% of Laggards. 

To build a data culture, there must be a commitment to building data literacy. Our report shows that the larger healthcare, finserv and technology industries (those in excess of $1B revenue) are leading the charge on building data literacy in their organizations, but retail and consumer goods are catching up.

Democratizing the data is key to spreading widespread literacy and is inclusive by its nature. Better decisions are made with data, and more people will make better decisions when a data culture is well established within their organizations.