What are the characteristics of a data-driven business? A new global survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Tableau Software, of more than 500 C-level and senior business executives sought to examine exactly that.

The survey also looked at the impact of big data on ROI, financial performance and organizational culture. “Fostering a Data-Driven Culture” offers a clear snapshot of how successful businesses are using Big Data and analytics to derive financial value.

The survey’s key findings indicate that success with data means getting it into the hands of more people within an organization, highlighting the fact that a data-driven culture cannot thrive if organizations operate as if data is an issue for someone else in the company, a job for a data specialist or perhaps the IT department.

Making Better Use of Data

The survey shows that while companies are making better use of their data, not all can claim to hold a substantial advantage over their competition when it comes to use of data. While they may not feel as if they’re edging out their rivals, they do admit that data sharing is helping generate a data-driven culture in their organization.

When asked to rate the importance of data to different organizational units, 43% of respondents say that data is “extremely important” to strategic decision making, while just under 40% say data is extremely important to marketing and communications, as well as finance and accounting.

Becoming data-driven doesn't happen overnight. According to the survey, many organizations acknowledge that training, skills-building and top-down leadership all play a role.


Around one in three respondents say it is “very important” to have programs or partnerships in place to make employees more data-literate. Additionally, respondents agreed that in order to achieve buy-in across an organization, educating about the power of data, and empowering employees through training is key.


The survey also shows that a data-driven culture is not built by only a few experts, but it can be hard to hire those with the skills needed. Nearly 70% say that it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to recruit and retain people who are effective at analyzing data. For those companies that identified their companies’ use of data as “somewhat” or “substantially” behind peers, half cited a lack of in-house technical expertise as a reason, with 14% saying that the analysts that they do have are overwhelmed by requests.

Executive Leadership

Seventy-six percent of executives from top-performing companies cited data collection as “very important/essential” to data culture, compared with 42% from companies that lag behind their peers. Just over 30% of respondents attribute a reluctance by department heads to share data as a cause for failing to realize a data-driven culture. Additionally, it seems that top-down leadership about data sharing isn't just welcome, it works. When asked about the strategies that have proved successful in promoting a data-driven culture, half of respondents mention top-down mandates and guidance.

Overall, what this survey serves to show is that your data is only as good as how data-driven your organizational culture is. A strong data-driven culture is dependent upon educating peers about the importance of data-sharing and building the skills needed to analyze data, while making it an executive-level priority. Taken together, this could be the secret to unlocking the power your data holds.