3 Objections to Data Transparency Hurting Your Business

Elle Morgan, Content Marketer and Evangelist, Woopra, Inc.
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Elle Morgan, Content Marketer and Evangelist, Woopra, Inc.

Transparency. A word that only years ago became so trendy that it adorned the walls of businesses large and small. It was embedded within company values, mission statements and corporate propaganda. During the same time, the walls of our offices were broken down and exchanged for “open-office” floor plans. We huddled around our bean bag chairs for All-Hands meetings, where financials and business challenges were openly shared with the organization.

Transparency sang the promise of honesty for employees and customers alike. But, for many companies, the word never made it beyond the Employee Handbook. In fact, there are few organizations genuinely embody transparency. And as the years pass and the values painted on the wall begin to chip, we have to ask ourselves, what happened?

Transparency Eats Fear for Breakfast

The pitfall of transparency that I’ve observed over the last six years is - fear. At first, it was the fear that employees would leak sensitive financial information or product secrets into the market. Then, it was the fear that departments would turn on one another. If employees could see when one team dropped the ball, wouldn’t they become irate or place blame?

  ‚ÄčResurrecting data from the data warehouse grave, consolidating analytics and placing it in the hands of every employee will drive true transparency  

Today, in a world where we expect information at our fingertips, it is fear that continues to bury our data and analytics, keeping insights siloed, information segregated and knowledge left to collect dust in the data warehouse. But, the rewards for empowering employees with transparent data far outweigh the risks. Here are three common objections that I hear to data transparency and how to overcome them:

Objection: Too many questions would be raised

I worked at a company (one of the many who touted transparency as a core value) and met with the CEO one day to propose sending out an employee survey. The results would allow our company to be considered as a “Best Places to Work” and provide valuable feedback on ways that we could improve our culture. His response went like this, “I don’t want to expose any issues, problems or complaints because we can’t do anything about it right now.”

Some of you may be nodding your heads in agreement and others, appalled by his response. The truth is, this feeling is prevalent among leaders today. If ignorance is bliss, many would prefer to live in bliss as long as possible, sweeping problems under the rug until the pile becomes too large to ignore.

Solution: Create a process for embracing ideas

It’s true that information breeds curiosity and curiosity ignites questions. But, questions drive innovation. They challenge you to think differently. They are the precursor to change and the root cause of every disruptive innovation to date. To suffocate questioning is to suffocate your business entirely. So, rather than attempt to avoid questions, develop an internal process for handling these questions and ideas.

For example, when I worked at Edmunds.com, we created an Idea Board that was placed in a high-traffic area within the office. As employees poured their morning coffee or ate lunch, they could write an idea on a slip of paper and place it on the board, bucketed by categories.

Once a week, ideas were collected and pitched to the appropriate teams, followed by a discussion. The best ideas were voted on and soon thereafter implemented. This gave every employee the opportunity to be involved in the ideation process, regardless of role or department. It inspired questioning, provoked thinking and encouraged cross-departmental collaboration.

Whatever your “Idea Board” is, create a process for embracing questions that is approachable, encouraged and supported by leadership. Providing a platform to spread ideas will spur innovation and suddenly “too many questions” will be a sign of strength rather than weakness.

Objection Two: Only leadership teams need access to this level of data

If leadership teams are responsible for management, shouldn’t they be the only ones with complete data transparency? It’s true that most companies still rely on leadership to implement change. But, we’re seeing this trend die in today’s revived organizational hierarchies.

Gary Hamel, the world’s leading expert on business strategy, said today’s modern organizations embody qualities where:

• No one can kill a good idea
• Everyone can pitch in
• Anyone can lead
• You can easily build on top of what others have done
• Excellence usually wins (and mediocrity doesn’t)
• Passion-killing policies get reversed
• Great contributions are recognized and celebrated

Data transparency lies at the core of these qualities. For everyone to be able to pitch in, lead, build and contribute, they must also able to able to, “exploit the revolutionary potential of big data, cloud services, mobile technology and the web to empower every associate and team member,” he explained.

Solution: Empower employees with real-time, consolidated data

Roles in today’s modern organization cross, evolve, intertwine and pivot. It is because of this that every employee should be granted just as much information as the next, regardless of hierarchy or job description.

Employees with transparent data are then empowered to make smarter, informed decisions. At Woopra, we’ve seen firsthand how data transparency can lead to greater collaboration and stronger, more effective teams.

For example, when Hubstaff, a time tracking software company, came to Woopra, they were seeking a way to bring their disparate data points together within a single platform. They integrated data their website data, along with application, email and support analytics to achieve a single source of truth for customer information. Every employee was given access to this information and a culture of data transparency was born.

Objection Three: Employees should focus on their own departments

We tend to think of organization’s as a set of separate departments, each with their own roles and responsibilities. But, the engagement customers have is not limited to the product, customer success, marketing or sales teams. Instead, the customer journey spans across every department. It seamlessly flows between teams and interacts with each at different moments.

The customer sees your brand as a whole, rather than a set of individuals. So, why do we treat our company as separate departments, instead of a team of driven-individuals working toward the same goal?

Solution: Shift the focus away from departments and toward organizational growth

Data transparency breaks down departmental walls, just as open-office floor plans broke down the walls of our offices years ago. Employees begin to think about how their actions impact those of other departments because they can see it first hand.

For example, a marketing team may have previously focused on running a marketing campaign that was measured by new leads and website visitors. But, with complete data transparency, they can see if the campaign impacted product engagement, drove an influx of customer support tickets, created new sales opportunities and beyond.

Shifting toward a focus on the company as a whole, will liberate the minds of your employees and create opportunities for meaningful growth.

Conclusion:

Resurrecting data from the data warehouse grave, consolidating analytics and placing it in the hands of every employee will drive true transparency. To embrace data transparency is to be among the few that are challenging the status quo, putting aside fears for the greater good of your organization and believing that every employee can make a difference.

With so much riding on effective collaboration for growth, as Oscar Berg puts it so well, “creating a culture of transparency that builds on open and honest communication seems to be the only feasible strategy.” In the end, it will be expected. A moral credo. A breeding ground for trust and the foundation of an incredible work environment. 

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