Taking action: Five tips for overcoming internal resistance to data usage at your organization

Part 3 in our series on data usage

Trying to convince peers in your organization to make more strategic use of data and analytics? There are many outstanding reasons for anyone who cares about improved performance to do it! However, mission-driven leaders face a handful of common challenges in their quest to build cultures that fully embrace the power of data in informing decision making.

While every organization’s data journey is different, our work with dozens of organizations reveals common opportunities for harnessing data to inspire behavior change. Here are a few we’ve found most influential. 


Invest in developing data dashboards that give you actionable data that’s tailored to your key business meetings.

Does your outreach team have regular meetings to decide which content it will share with stakeholders and supporters? If so, this is a great example of a business process in which data can make a huge difference. Working together, your team can identify a handful of relevant data points to inform content decisions, and develop a dashboard that makes them plain for all to see. Similar efforts can focus on decisions on event management, social media and budgeting.  


Create a space for collaborative conversations about data across departments.  

A large part of our work is “silo-busting” – bringing together colleagues across teams like fundraising, communications, IT and government relations to align on outreach needs and arrive a shared understanding of their audience’s experiences. This typically results in insights like this: “Oh, we’re having the exact same problem! Let’s look at how we might be able to solve it together.” Such collaboration can set the stage for improved data sharing, joint budgeting, and other cross-departmental efforts. 


Model data curiosity by asking questions that only data can answer.

Leaders play plays a critical role in building a data-driven culture by modeling data curiosity in ongoing meetings with their colleagues. They create an environment in which it is not only safe, but expected, that staff members will ask questions that only data can answer – even when relevant data might not be immediately accessible. They also create an expectation that staff members will harness data to make the case when pitching a particular course of action. This behavior strengthens internal demand for data and analytics.  


Focus on getting more value from the analytics tools you already have, rather than acquiring new ones.

We live in an imperfect world. It’s likely your outreach systems are imperfect too. Yet instead of focusing your attention on securing new ones – often a costly and labor-intensive endeavor that erodes existing skill sets in an organization – we prefer you first maximize and optimize the tools you already have. It’s likely they can be better customized to meet your needs and connect more seamlessly with each other, unlocking new capabilities for you as a result.  


Empower a handful of interested practitioners to use the data already at their fingertips.

Who will be the analytics hero at your organization? It’s almost always the practitioner hiding in plain sight – the one who’s already implementing your strategy. They know your systems, your outreach, and your colleagues.  They just need the mandate and the opportunity to use the data already at their fingertips to help your team improve its collective work. Fortunately, they don’t need to be an oracle; rather, their task is to teach others to identify useful data and (with a bit of training) empower them to access it on their own. 


Answers get all the credit, but questions do all the work.

The ultimate proof of data-driven cultures taking root? When people are continually encouraged to strengthen their intuition by asking smart questions of data about their audience members. And when data is informing organizational decision-making on an ongoing basis. It can be a long road to get to this point. But progress is possible—quick wins make a big difference! We’re here to help you on each step of this worthy path.