A shift in corporate culture is one of the best ways to accelerate an organization’s digital transformation.

Complacency can hamstring a company’s ability to capitalize on the value of its data, said a transportation executive at a recent CIO roundtable hosted by Optiv and ITWC. “There’s this notion that permeates our leadership that ‘nobody is going to eat our lunch,’” the executive described. “This has led to a reluctance to take the steps necessary to utilize our data fully.”

Most organizations need to change their culture to fully benefit from transformation, said Michael Doucet, executive director, office of the CISO at Optiv. “We should never underestimate the importance of a decision making culture.”

The benefits of boldness

A small shift in thinking can make a big difference, said the transportation executive. “The IT team had been pushing the importance of business analytics for over ten years, but it wasn’t until two years ago that leadership began to understand the power of business analytics. This led to a breakthrough in reducing billing time,” he said.

The company was able to cut its billing time for clients from an average of 18 days to 24 hours. “Using data that had been available to us for years, we empowered our field workers. Rather than pass paper billing information through a long chain of command, workers can now scan documents on-site, which are then automatically sent to the right people internally.”

Doucet noted two specific actions that organizations can take to improve results. “How we punish people for mistakes needs to change,” he said. “We need to give our teams a certain allowance to make mistakes and go down roads that may or may not be fruitful.”

Another aspect of culture that needs to change if companies want to get value from their data is the idea of data ownership, said Doucet. Many departments feel a sense of ownership over their data, he said. “While the responsibility that comes with this is positive, data ownership culture creates silos and stops information from being shared. This is problematic, because data cannot be fully understood or leveraged outside the context of the broader organization. By breaking down silos, we not only gain answers; we begin to ask new questions. But if companies don’t break down data silos, even the best analytics won’t help them.”

How to convince leaders to invest in data security

A different approach will also help IT teams to get leadership buy-in to invest in data security.

Roundtable members agreed that demonstrating the concrete value of data security to corporate executive continues to be a challenge. “Too often organizations look at cost savings as their primary metric when it comes to IT,” explained a professor at a local college. “They need to look at IT, and security in particular, as an investment.” The IT team should point to other institutions that have fallen victim to a breach as examples of what can happen when the proper security measures are not in place, the professor said. “But the most effective solution I have found is to ensure security measures are part of the IT architecture from day one.”

Leadership buy-in for data security becomes easier if the conversation shifts from cost savings to cost minimization, said another participant. “There will be a breach eventually. When that happens, we will need to minimize the damage. This kind of thinking is opposed to a traditional cost savings approach, which usually infers some sort of productivity or efficiency increase.”

Based on the roundtable discussion, most organizations are still grappling with how to secure and gain the most value from their data. Ultimately, participants made it clear that digital transformation success will depend on a willingness to try new things, learn from mistakes, and avoid complacency at all costs.