Since he took over at Microsoft, we have seen Satya Nadella drive a data driven culture from the top down. Nadella has regularly stated his commitment to data, enforcing a ‘data first, cloud first’ approach to running Microsoft. Like more and more innovative CEOs, Nadella believes a data driven culture is key to fully benefiting from big data, arguing that it is the “most paramount thing inside of Microsoft.”

There is a clear business case for building your organisation around big data. It was estimated by IDC that organisations could save $1.6 trillion (about £1 trillion) by unifying and analysing their data better. Data can empower businesses and uncover answers, often providing unexpected results. Organisations failing to adopt a data first approach are likely to fall behind competition. I believe a data culture needs to be driven from the top, and the buck stops with the CEO.

Here are my top three reasons why businesses should embrace a data driven culture:

1. Time & Money Savings

Data has the ability to hold teams and people accountable. Data gathered from every company department can provide a means for leaders to get an overall view of the direction of the company and make changes to ensure the organisation operates as efficient and lean as possible.

Research by McKinsey on the Social Economy revealed that investing in and acting on social business data can result in a 20-25 per cent increase in knowledge worker productivity. Analysis of the circulation of data internally and externally allows organisations to identify bottlenecks, over-performing sectors and redistributing staff and assets appropriately.

Placing data within the company culture will increase productivity, encouraging employees to come up with more innovative ways to use it. A company currently saving money through embracing data is PCM, a large direct marketer of technology products. Through examining data they discovered that the money they were spending on customer acquisition was really being used to re-acquire the same customers over and over again.

PCM realised this was not an efficient use of funds, prompting them to invest in customer analytics technology which made it possible to recognise existing customers and to re-market them without having to pay for expensive acquisition campaigns like AdWords.

2. Increased Customer Personalisation

Using data to manage customer relationships can help engage with customers in a more personal manner. The data uncovered could lead to a business investing in individual customers differently. For example in the retail sector, many smart merchants are differentiating between how much money they are investing to keep customers happy dependent on the individuals’ predicted lifetime value.

Data-driven companies are investing less time and money in customers who regularly return their purchases and those which only buy on discount. Instead they are choosing to invest more in customer appreciation and loyalty schemes for their best customers.

Microsoft is using data in this way, gathering information from their users in order to enhance the user experience and drive decision-making. Microsoft’s Vice President of Technology and Research, Harry Shum, writing in a blog post commented, “data is a precious resource, and as a company we need to make fewer decisions on intuition and more based on market and other data.” Big data provides businesses with the means to make decisions centred around the end user.

3. Increased Market Understanding

In the same way by which businesses can gather data to personalise their customer data, analytics can be used to monitor products and customer responses, providing firms with a better understanding of new and existing market opportunities. Examining data can determine whether or not a product or marketing initiative will increase customer engagement and sales. Businesses can use this insight to really drive their services forward. Analysing data before making a critical decision will help to deliver real business growth and bring the key personnel, the customers, into the boardroom.

Building A Data-Driven Culture

The quickest and simplest way CEOs can begin to build a data-driven culture is to give all employees access to customer and business data. In any B2B or B2C market, all employees have the potential to be customer facing, and CEOs should be prepared for any employee to come into contact with a customer at anytime.

Providing all staff with access to critical data is therefore essential to fostering a single, transparent view of the customer. The moment a customer comes into contact with an organisation, any member of staff needs to be able to recognise them as if they were an old friend, no matter whether this is over the internet, the phone, social media or in person.

Businesses at all levels need to be aware of the insights available from big data, and the benefits this can bring across an organisation. Fostering a top-down data-driven culture will result in employees using data as much as possible in their roles, and therefore, increase productivity, saving time, money and creating highly personalised customer experiences.