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Why creating a data-driven culture has less to do with data than you think

Why creating a data-driven culture has less to do with data than you think

Kishan Gupta, CEO, shares 5 tips and techniques for fostering a data-driven culture based on his own experiences building and leading UXCam.

April 13, 2022 by Kishan Gupta

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A couple of months ago, one of our team members presented a website tagline for our brand refresh. Looking back at my own experiences with our first website, I had a different idea. As I gathered my thoughts, she added, 

“I participated in 13 user persona interviews, wrote a couple of taglines based on pain points, shared the tagline with the leadership team, and used a messaging site to test it in front of 30 people in our target audience. I just wanted to show you the result.”

Turns out she wasn’t asking me for my opinion — she was doing the courtesy of showing me before she uploaded the sentence to landing pages for further conversion testing. 

At that moment, I realized that the culture of experimentation we’d been nurturing at UXCam was in effect. I make a lot of decisions in a day and appreciated that the decision-making had already been done by people who engage with our customers most and by our customers themselves.

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    Despite knowing that we can never really assume what our customers are thinking, it’s hard to break the habit of thinking your experiences spell out the truth for you and your team. So why is the natural instinct to assume rather than to ask for the data first? 

    Assumptions save our brain energy, connecting dots that aren’t there

    The truth is, many mobile app companies do use data to test assumptions, but it’s tempting to stop at one set of quantitative analysis that only tells half the picture and assume the rest of the customer experience. When looking at a conversion funnel, you’ve technically done the research. After that, it’s tempting to draw from your own experiences because they’ve been through the gauntlet.

    One way to stop and check your assumptions at the door, is to think about whether these educated guesses are serving your company’s purpose — your why. 

    I asked myself the same thing. Why did we build UXCam? Because it’s a pain waiting to get user insights from different teams and tools. If we believe our customers should get the big picture of the user experience, why shouldn’t I empower the team to have the big picture of our customers? Why just give them my slice of experience and serve it on a plate as truth?

    That’s why, at UXCam, we have a methodological way of instilling a data-driven testing culture and surprisingly it doesn’t require everyone to skill up on data. 

    Lead by example that data = decisions

    When a lead makes a decision in front of a team, it should start with questions, not answers. All of their decisions should be anchored in data. When presenting anything, a new policy, a new business direction, it should be justified to everyone who makes this a part of their daily work. Even a new coffee machine can be justified with data: “We’ve spoken to a few of you and there seems to be a collective agreement that… we need to upgrade to a newer model..”

    At that moment, I realized that the culture of experimentation we’d been nurturing at UXCam was in effect. I make a lot of decisions in a day and appreciated that the decision-making had already been done by people who engage with our customers most and by our customers themselves.

    This is largely to instill trust in all new ideas that they’ve been carefully considered and designed to provide the greatest value to those who are impacted by the change. Risk taking— within limits — should be rewarded with growth opportunities. Saying it’s okay to fail and learning from it, sets the tone for the rest of the team.

    Build cross-functional expertise among team leads

    What happens in most organizations is team leaders are quite siloed. The marketing team lead doesn't have visibility in sales or customer service and vice versa. When building on a team lead level, make sure that the leads are cross-functional and understand the perspectives that enable them to make faster decisions across the organization.

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    In our organization, Peter, our VP of Marketing understands the operations of sales and customer service. His decisions make a positive impact on the entire company, not only his department. 

    This trickles down. People at UXCam feel like it’s OK to ask lots of questions outside of their team — in fact, it’s mandatory for growth. By the time a lead brings something to me, she usually has already cross-checked the idea with sales, customer service, and product. It makes decision making simple. To achieve this, everyone should be approachable regardless of who you’re talking to, practicing a good feedback loop. 

    Build data hygiene checks and balances into your daily operations

    Practicing good data hygiene makes it easier to test when you need it. Having a data-driven culture doesn’t mean everyone takes a Udemy course to be a data analyst. It can be something as simple as a uniform file naming convention on Drive. 

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    In the case of sales, it’s entering the correct data into the CRM. Yes it is boring, but by reinforcing this in every Sales meeting and Pipeline review, you are actually able to diagnose issues through the sales process. Filling in the notes of a sales call into the CRM will be handy when the deal moves between stages and passed onto another team. Without those checks and balances, the time and money invested in acquiring leads are wasted. To make this easier, have an automated system that checks accuracy, establish publicly on how data hygiene can be ensured amongst teams. 

    Invest in data ownership early on 

    Data comes from different sources and is used by different people. No wonder it’s hard for the entire team to align on a decision. Encourage team leads on a cadence to prepare their own insight and align regularly on company goals. At UXCam we have a bi-weekly meeting across all teams. During this meeting, we use a shared dashboard (built through Y42) where we all have data from different departments in one place. 

    We do this to get visibility on what customer support, product, revenue, and operations teams are doing. We are always in the loop on customer sentiments, revenue changes, leads, marketing changes, product changes, user engagement, and so on. By reporting regularly on our KPIs and getting asked early and upfront to explain the attribution, we’re able to better understand the results of our actions. 

    By having a data owner per team, it’s easier to find actionable metrics. Team leads need to be assigned metrics they can fully own, and then distribute them to the rest of their team, to empower them with goals they can work toward.

    Make data easy for everybody, not just the experts 

    Analytics need to help all the employees make faster decisions – yet it’s a challenge to empower everyone with the knowledge of how to use data. 

    The secret is making tools work for your teams. Automation can help your team save time, prevent them from trying to fetch data from different teams. As we saw, this process can be demoralizing. The key is to use a tool that is for everybody, not just for experts and analysts — a tool that automates capturing so people without basic data knowledge aren’t waiting days to get someone to help them set up events. 

    When shortlisting an analytics tool for user insights for example, find one that auto-captures, enriches data, analyzes, and visualizes insights. This will empower everyone on the team who needs it. Invest time upfront in training, and make it an ongoing event. 

    Keep going

    As we’ve seen, data culture is not about data. It’s about teams using analytics to make better decisions more often. The culture of an organization amplifies the power harnessed from analytics — swerving the company away from bad decisions. 

    Despite your best efforts, it’s easy to fall back into the habit of messy data and educated guesses. Keep having those weekly catch ups and hygiene checks — make it a daily ritual to ensure that data is easy to organize and interpret. 

    - Kishan 

    kishan
    AUTHOR

    Kishan Gupta

    CEO and Co-founder, UXCam

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