Working with Data: Improving Organizational Outcomes

Data isn’t just for statisticians, data scientists and computer specialists!  Most employees and supervisors benefit from understanding this resource in today’s data-driven world.

10 Things Employees Should Know About Data

Here are some key aspects that employees should understand about the data in their organization:

  1. Importance of Data: Recognize that data is a valuable asset for organizations. It helps managers conduct strategic and operational planning, make informed decisions, identify trends, understand customers, improve processes and gain competitive advantages.
  2. Data Types: Familiarize yourself with different types of data, such as quantitative and qualitative; and structured (organized and easily searchable) and unstructured (text, images, videos).
  3. Data Collection: Understand how data are collected in your organization. It can be gathered through surveys, online forms, customer interactions and automated systems.
  4. Data Quality: Appreciate the importance of and time needed to ensure data quality. Accurate, reliable, and up-to-date data is crucial for making sound decisions. Understand the potential sources of data errors, such as data entry mistakes or system glitches.
  5. Data Analysis: Gain a basic understanding of data analysis techniques. This includes the ability to interpret and analyze data using tools like spreadsheets or specialized software. Familiarize yourself with concepts like data visualization, statistical analysis and data mining.
  6. Data Privacy and Security: Recognize the significance of data privacy and security. Understand the importance of protecting sensitive data, following data protection regulations and adhering to your organization’s data handling policies and procedures.
  7. Data Ethics: Be aware of ethical considerations surrounding data usage. Understand the importance of using data responsibly, avoiding biases, maintaining confidentiality and respecting privacy rights.
  8. Data-Driven Decision Making: Appreciate the role of data in decision-making processes. Understand how data can provide insights, support evidence-based decision making and help identify areas for improvement.
  9. Data Literacy: Understanding basic statistical concepts can help you interpret data visualizations and effectively communicate data-driven insights to others.
  10. Continuous Learning: Recognize that data-related technologies and practices evolve rapidly. Stay updated on new trends, tools and best practices through training, online resources, and professional networks.


Understanding data can enhance your strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities, enable you to contribute to data-driven initiatives and increase your value to any organization and its customers.


Connecting Data to Strategic Planning

Data play a crucial role in strategic planning. Strategic planning involves making informed decisions about the future direction of an organization or business, and data provides the necessary information and insights to support those decisions. Here are some specific ways data is relevant to strategic planning:

  • Understanding the current state: Data are important in assessing the current state of an organization, including its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Data sources for this purpose can include existing goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), financial reports, market research, customer feedback and operational metrics such as inventory measures and process throughputs. Using these, strategic planners can gain a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s internal and external environment.
  • Identifying trends and patterns: Data analysis enables the identification of trends, patterns, and emerging market dynamics. By analyzing historical data, market trends, and industry benchmarks, strategic planners can anticipate changes, see opportunities and make strategic decisions that align with the future direction of the organization.
  • Market research and customer insights: Data provides valuable information about customer preferences, behavior, and needs. Strategic planners use market research data, customer surveys and demographic information to identify target markets, understand customer segments and develop strategies to meet their demands effectively.
  • Competitive analysis: Data allows for a comprehensive analysis of competitors’ performance, market share, pricing strategies and customer satisfaction. By comparing and benchmarking against competitors, strategic planners can identify gaps and develop strategies to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Performance measurement and evaluation: Data-driven KPIs help monitor progress toward strategic goals and evaluate the effectiveness of implemented strategies. By regularly analyzing performance metrics and data, strategic planners can assess the success of their initiatives, make necessary adjustments and refine the strategic plan.
  • Risk assessment and mitigation: Data analysis facilitates risk assessment by identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities within the organization and the market. Strategic planners can use historical data, predictive modeling, and scenario analysis to anticipate risks, develop contingency plans and mitigate potential threats.

In summary, data provides the foundation for informed decision-making in strategic planning. It helps organizations understand their current state, identify trends, gain customer insights, analyze competitors, measure performance and assess risks, ultimately leading to the development of effective and impactful strategic plans.

Data Governance: Investing in the Long-Term

Here’s a concrete example of how organizations, managers, and employees can engage thoughtfully with data to shape organizational change.  Developing a long-term data governance plan – the plan for how data will be generated, maintained, and managed – involves careful planning, collaboration and adherence to industry best practices.  Here are some ways to engage with this process.

  • Establish goals and objectives: Define the purpose of your data governance plan and the specific desired outcomes. This may include ensuring data quality, compliance with regulations, minimizing data breaches and improving decision-making processes.
  • Participate in a data governance team: These teams are generally multidisciplinary, including representatives from IT, legal, compliance, data management and business units.
  • Assess the current state: Assess your organization’s existing data management practices, policies, and infrastructure. Identify strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.
  • Define data governance framework: Develop a framework that outlines the structure, roles, and responsibilities for data governance within the organization. This framework should define the decision-making processes, accountability, and communication channels for data-related topics.
  • Develop data policies and standards: Create and communicate clear and comprehensive data policies and standards that cover data collection, storage, access, usage, sharing, retention and disposal. Establish guidelines for data stewardship, data ownership, and data lifecycle management.
  • Establish or understand existing data security measures: It is vital to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access, breaches and other security risks. This is done through encryption, access controls, authentication mechanisms, regular security audits, and employee training on data security best practices.
  • Ensure compliance with regulations: Identify the relevant data protection regulations and industry-specific compliance requirements that apply to your organization. Develop strategies and mechanisms to ensure compliance with these regulations, such as data anonymization, consent management and data subject rights processes.
  • Educate and train others: Provide training and awareness programs to educate people about data governance policies, procedures and their roles.
  • Monitor and measure effectiveness: Regularly monitor and measure the effectiveness of your data governance plan. Establish KPIs about the data itself, to evaluate the success of your initiatives and identify areas that require further attention or improvement.
  • Evolve and adapt: Data governance is an ongoing process, so it’s crucial to continuously review, refine, and adapt the plan as your organization’s needs and the data landscape evolve. Staying informed about emerging technologies, industry trends and regulatory changes can help you contribute to maintaining and updating a data governance plan.

Effective long-term data governance plan requires collaboration and ongoing commitment. The benefits of effective data governance, such as improved data quality, compliance and decision-making – make it a worthwhile investment for those interested in shaping the future of data.

Do You Understand Data? Career Opportunities

Are you intrigued by data? There are several job roles related to data that have emerged and gained popularity in recent years due to the increasing importance of data analysis and data-driven decision-making. Here are some popular jobs related to data:

  • Data Scientist: Data scientists are responsible for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting complex data to help organizations make informed decisions. They use various statistical techniques, programming languages, and machine learning algorithms to extract insights from data.
  • Data Analyst: Data analysts focus on collecting, organizing and analyzing large sets of data to identify trends, patterns and insights. They often work with databases, spreadsheets, and data visualization tools to present their findings to stakeholders.
  • Data Engineer: Data engineers design and build the infrastructure and systems required for storing, processing and managing large volumes of data. They work closely with data scientists and analysts to ensure data is accessible and ready for analysis.
  • Business Intelligence Analyst: Business intelligence analysts gather and analyze data from various sources to provide insights and support decision-making within an organization. They create reports, dashboards and visualizations to present data in a meaningful way to business stakeholders.
  • Data Architect: Data architects develop and manage the overall structure and organization of data within an organization. They design data models, define data standards and ensure data integrity and security.
  • Data Visualization Specialist: Data visualization specialists create visually appealing and interactive representations of data. They use tools like Excel, Crystal Reports, Tableau and Power BI to transform complex data sets into easily understandable charts, graphs and dashboards.
  • Quality Manager: Data quality managers are responsible for ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data within an organization. They establish data quality standards, implement data governance policies and conduct audits to identify and resolve data quality issues.
  • Data Privacy Officer: With the growing concern for data privacy, organizations are hiring privacy officers to ensure compliance with data protection regulations. They develop and implement privacy policies, conduct privacy impact assessments and advise on data handling practices.
  • Data Consultant: Data consultants work with organizations to assess their data needs, develop strategies for data collection and analysis, and provide recommendations for improving data-related processes. They may also assist in implementing data management systems.

These are just a few examples of the many job roles available in the field of data. The specific requirements and responsibilities may vary depending on the industry, organization and level of experience. To further explore these topics and others, Pryor Learning offers several training options in strategic planning, data analysis, analytical software and general project management. All can help you shape a data-driven and data-focused career!