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What Does Culture Have To Do With DataOps? Everything!

Jonathan Martin

November 14, 2019

Welcome back to DataOps central! My colleagues and I have been blogging and podcasting about the many critical facets of DataOps, which has the power to automate processes to get the right data to the right place at the right time. We’ve examined everything from the key components of the DataOps methodology to the data science behind it all. But one area we haven’t touched on yet is the culture component.

You may be asking what do DataOps and culture have to do with one another. The answer is everything! In fact, here are some culture dimensions that are critical to unifying teams and driving new levels of executional speed.

Let’s dive in.

Embrace Data as a Shared Asset

Unlike a car, where the value depreciates the minute it leaves the lot, the value of data never wanes. It’s like the sun that sheds light on different aspects of a business day after day, all year long. But there are challenges—since data is relevant to the entire business, companies must eliminate organizational boundaries that have formed over time and created data silos that prevent these insights from flowing freely.

Naturally, the instinct to control data is very ingrained and it won’t be squashed with the turn of a key. But for those looking to gain their DataOps Advantage, this mindset must change. We must shift from hoarding data to sharing data. To make it all work, we need governance, access control and security. These elements will help facilitate the prudent sharing of data while also eliminating the other extreme … unlimited sharing, which has proven to be ineffective in most venues.

At the same time, employees will also need to remain vigilant, keeping their eyes and ears open for the possible formation of these silos and, when found, to speak up. Data-driven businesses require a culture that welcomes these observations and ensures that unreasonable restrictions on the use of data never take shape.

Collaborate Across the Data Supply Chain

Sharing assets is one key element but another is collaboration. Let me explain. One way to understand DataOps is to look at it as an application of design thinking—With DataOps, problems and goals are rethought, as is the scope. This is not just an engineering exercise, it touches everyone throughout the company because today, whether it’s marketing, HR, sales or product development, the entire organization relies on data.

Naturally, there will still be specialties within a business and each will work to identify their own unique challenges and opportunities where they can infuse data to drive improvements. However, by fostering collaboration, people will be able to turn to their colleagues for help in finding the best and fastest solution.

Push Down Decision-Making

I’ve talked about how DataOps allows data to flow throughout the business. Naturally employees are tapping into these insights to become smarter and more informed. So informed in fact, that they can use the data as part of their decision-making. At Hitachi Vantara we like to call this push-down decision making, and it’s happening from the core of the business to the very edge.

A great example of this came from U.S. General Stan McChrystal who in 2003, introduced his “team of teams” concept. The idea was to eliminate the siloed thinking that was engrained in the military and encourage smaller teams to share their own innovations throughout the organization.

The first thing you will find is that employees at the edge are not accustomed to making these types of decisions because it was not what they were hired to do. But that’s all changing. DataOps success requires a cultural evolution where A) employees embrace the idea of making data-based decisions and B) management relinquishes some oversight control in favor of building more decision-making muscle throughout their business.

As you can see, culture truly does play a major role in helping a DataOps initiative become a DataOps success. These are some of the areas where business must consider. But by no means are these the only places where culture comes into play. In fact, my hope is that you share your cultural insights as well.