Winning with Data: Transform Your Culture, Empower Your People, and Shape the Future (Wiley)With over 20 years growing and leading technology companies, Frank Bien built his career on nurturing strong corporate culture and highly efficient teams. Prior to Looker , Frank was SVP of Strategy for storage vendor Virsto (acquired by VMware) and VP of Strategic Alliances at big-data pioneer Greenplum, leading their acquisition by EMC (now Pivotal). He led Product Marketing and Strategy at early scale-out data warehousing company Sensage and was VP of Solution Sales at Vignette/OpenText. Earlier in his career he held executive roles at Dell and the Federal Reserve. Frank recently co-authored the book, Winning with Data: Transform Your Culture, Empower Your People, and Shape the Future (Wiley) , which takes a deep dive into big data in business, explores the cultural changes it will bring and discusses how to adapt an organization to leverage data to its maximum effect.
When you work every day in data, you constantly hear fun stories about how data helped in some one-off way. It’s kind of like data trivia. My big ah-ha moment came about eight months after starting at Looker. I visited several customers in San Francisco one day when we were shooting testimonial interviews — they were completely unscripted and un-prepped. But all of the customers said the same thing — that they had finally been able to start building a data culture. They actually had a lot of their business team users going into the tool to ask questions or get information that guided what they did that day.
They would get facts because they were easy to access. The projects had moved from traditional analytic “rearview mirror” analysis to using massive amounts of data to inform very practical business questions. My experience until then was that people just stopped asking questions because it was too hard — even with expensive new tools. But here was a rapid succession of customers I was talking to that all were telling us that Looker had actually moved them to the next level. It was a huge ah-ha moment that we were onto something. That shifting culture was actually possible given the right environment and toolset.
I think new companies are almost always starting off with data in mind. Generally, they’re trying to disrupt some entrenched larger company that’s moving too slowly or not seeing things clearly. Data is often part of their business plan. So it may actually be a different question — how do you build data culture before it’s too late.