When a company is in the process of digitalization, it will find that changing the mindset of its staff is the most difficult. Such a change cannot be made just by hiring a few top data scientists. More importantly, the company should find someone who can see the big picture and find the right way to use data to improve its operation.
When I was working for Alibaba, I organized a digital marketing team, whose objective was to let all employees understand the benefits of digital management. In fact, even the boss questioned the value of the team.
The team eventually played a big role in the company. But it was not easy to change the mindset of co-workers and build a data-driven culture in the workplace, especially when it comes to convincing people that data matters.
The success of digitalization comes down to how simple it is to collect and use data.
Incentives are necessary in the early stages of digitalization. Management must know how to quantify and evaluate the progress achieved in digitalization. Successful examples should be rewarded in order to reinforce employees’ commitment and confidence.
One thing to bear in mind is that the adoption of data technology should involve everyone in the workplace rather than just data scientists or analysts.
When a CEO starts to set his/her eye on data technology, that will be the turning point in building a data-driven culture.
This is what happened in Alibaba. In 2012 when the unit I worked for started to take shape, founder Jack Ma came to visit almost every day. In 2014, he was already monitoring the entire company by means of a smartphone. Discussions among senior management soon centered on data.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 31
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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