Culture of analytics: Step by step

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What it means

Organizational culture is a soft science. It consists of belief patterns, attitudes and values built over the course of an organization’s history. And the business practices that result are a set of unwritten rules and expectations that can best be understood as “the way we do things around here.”

So what business practices are found in companies that possess a culture of analytics? The people in these organizations willingly share their data and analysis across organizational silos. They have leadership teams that personally demonstrate the importance of analytics, reflected in both business strategy and an openness to challenge current ideas and practices based on data. Their hiring decisions and training emphasize analytical skills for a broad array of positions. And those behaviors are rewarded and reinforced in both formal and informal ways.


Step 1: Assess current culture

When hoping to change corporate culture, it is useful to first intimately understand the existing culture through its tangible business practices. Identify the key characteristics of the workplace, where power resides, how employees communicate, how decisions are made, and where culture shows up in established business processes to help define the changes that need to be made.

Step 2: Define new business practices

Assess the major operational components of your business and identify ways in which analytics can be integrated into the systems and processes that support those operations. Involve a wide variety of employee roles and perspectives in the conversation, and pay special attention to practices that will lead to better decisions.

Step 3: Lead from the top

Culture can grow in many ways, but if it is not embraced and modeled by executive leadership, it is more difficult for it to take root. To this end, executive leadership must embody the culture of analytics, exemplifying the desired behavior and new business practices. They must be willing to be challenged with facts and abandon long-held beliefs in deference to the data. C-suite executives and other senior-level leaders should look to the CFO and the finance function as models of what evidence-based decisions look like, and what they can achieve.

Step 4: Create platforms that integrate people (and data)

To facilitate a culture of analytics, data must be clean, reliable and available to all decision makers. It also must have champions and stewards, not just in the CFO’s office, but also within the business units, geographies and other organizational delineations. Break down silos by putting in place the necessary infrastructure—people and processes—to support data-driven decisions.

Step 5: Build talent and reward behavior

A critical part of cultivating corporate culture is defining and rewarding the desired behaviors that exemplify that culture. For analytics, this begins with hiring new people with the right analytic skills, training existing employees on new approaches, and recognizing work that demonstrates the value of analytics.


1. Analytics: The widening divide. MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM Institute for Business Value, November 2011.

2. Ibid.

3. “Why IT Fumbles Analytics,” by Donald A. Marchand and Joe Peppard, Harvard Business Review, January 2013.

4. Analytics: The widening divide. MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM Institute for Business Value, November 2011

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