7 Pieces of Advice for Building a Data-Driven Culture

Executive Blog
Written by Krish Das, VP, Enterprise Data Officer, Ulta Beauty

Krish Das

VP, Enterprise Data Officer

Ulta Beauty

SEPTEMBER 26, 2023

For CDOs and CDAOs in Evanta communities, deploying a data-driven culture has been a top priority for years. However, many are struggling to reform existing company culture and inspire substantial employee adoption across their organizations. 

Krish Das, VP, Enterprise Data Officer at Ulta Beauty and Governing Body Member of the Atlanta CDAO Community, has ample experience building data-driven cultures across the banking and retail industries, and he recently shared insight into Ulta Beauty’s data culture journey and strategy. In this Executive Blog, Krish culminates his learnings into 7 pieces of advice for data leaders looking to improve their organization’s data culture.

The quest for growth never ends, and data is the ultimate strategic asset to take the business to the next level. However, the data alone will not drive long-term business value. Data needs to be built into the culture of the enterprise for all functions of the business to be more efficient, make better decisions and generate business outcomes.

Often, only a few functions of the business gain traction on data, such as marketing, and it can be difficult to expand due to a lack of enterprise level support, limited resources and numerous other factors. But despite these challenges, data leaders can make gains on their data culture journey.

Having gone through this experience at three organizations, here are seven considerations for data and analytics leaders trying to advance their data-driven culture:

  1. The data journey should be a business-driven journey.
    You should never do something that is not in alignment with the overarching business strategy. Data leaders with a technology-driven approach will constantly feel as if they are pushing a boulder up a hill.
  2. Have the right set of executive sponsorship.
    This is critical in determining how far your data program will go. When I joined Ulta Beauty, data was not spoken about at the executive level, and now we have executive sponsorship across our Chief Operating Officer, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Information Technology Officer, covering the whole organization from an executive sponsorship perspective. If you want to limit your focus, make sure you have alignment in the area of the business you are looking to drive value.
  3. Don't boil the ocean. Start showing value as early as possible.
    This will help with demonstrating value quickly, building trust and sparking excitement with key stakeholders across the business. You do not need to build a Cadillac before driving.
  4. Be honest about the foundation that you have, and work to get it right.
    If you have a weak foundation - i.e., low quality data, lack of clarity around what data you have, lack of trust on data and difficulties with accessing the data in a timely manner - it is going to be difficult to talk “big game” initiatives. Data leaders need to, first, identify the steps to strengthen their foundation and then create a roadmap that delivers specific use cases along the way.
  5. Never underestimate the need for change management.
    It is critical to launch a change management strategy as an integral part of a data transformation journey, and I credit the progress we have made at Ulta Beauty to this type of framework. Proper communications, training and upskilling, peer coaching, and collaboration opportunities are important for raising awareness and excitement, improving data literacy and driving adoption.
  6. Be a king maker, not a king.
    Find a business champion and put them on a pedestal. You must have the mindset that data leaders are enablers, and leave your ego at the door.
  7. Have a “Teflon spirit.”
    This is a difficult journey, and you should anticipate more downs than ups. Have a thick skin, because the end result is going to be good. 

Learn more about how Krish is transforming the data culture at Ulta Beauty, here.

Apply to join your local CDAO community and connect with like-minded data leaders, like Krish, on mission critical priorities. See when your CDAO community is gathering next here.

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