Tremendous upside is possible when an organization forms a data community and helps it to thrive. Based on my experience, here are a few of the benefits you might expect:

  • Greater collaboration. Bringing people together in the common cause of data naturally begins to break down silos between functions as well as departments; data analysts and business users with valuable subject matter expertise, for example. The quality of collaboration within and across departments rises as well.
  • Higher job satisfaction. Qualtrics’ research shares the dismal results that barely over half of employees around the globe feel engaged in their jobs. In my experience, people who join data communities almost immediately begin to enjoy their jobs more. For one thing, they are no longer sitting quietly at their desks and tackling tasks on their own. In a data community they can find inspiration and greater meaning in their work.
  • Fewer organizational silos. One important impact of data communities is the way that they act to connect disconnected groups within the same company based on a shared passion for data, a desire to get things right, and the pleasure of addressing the challenges of business questions together. What CEO wouldn’t love employees like this working for them? 
  • A more attractive employee brand. Not every company can be Apple or Google, but a workplace that becomes known for its forward-thinking approach to data, data culture and data community quickly can become an employer of choice, regardless of industry. 
  • Better business results. If a data community becomes adept at helping business users to access, prepare, and visualize data to meet technical challenges and answer specific questions that are of value to the business, it stands to reason that the entire company can benefit.  

Of course, there is an obligation on the part of the company to create the right conditions for a data community. Telling a few interested employees, “Sure, we’ll give you a forum platform and some internal chat room functionality” is providing the meeting house for a community, but not the human component that feeds a healthy data culture. Investing in employees’ data skills is essential, as well as creating an open environment where people from across the organizational chart feel confident about collaborating. 

But whether you are looking at process, technical issues, or even data visualization best practices, the true power of a data community is the skill sharing and generosity I’ve seen it create time after time. Even better, as a data community grows, the challenges it is equipped to tackle become more fundamental and extend horizontally across the organization to data architecture, technology, and infrastructure. The stronger the data community, the more confidently they can meet complexity with a shared response: “Hey, you know what? We can all look at this picture and figure it out together.”