By Matt Brooks
Vice President, Data and Analytics Transformation
General Electric



While the choice that Morpheus gave to Neo in the 1999 film, The Matrix, was far from simple, he was right about one thing: how we go about making decisions comes down to what we value, the data we have available at the time, and how we marry those two together. It stands to reason, then, that when we examine how to get started catalyzing the data revolution in a company, much the same way the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar started a revolution that lasted for two additional movies, we should focus our attention on how decisions are made, by whom, and what they value.

Recently, I was honored to be a guest presenter on starting a data culture revolution. (If you’re interested in checking out the slides from that event, you can find them here.) I spoke about the importance of grassroots efforts, which you can read more about in my last article, but touched a bit more on how the focus should also be on how decisions in the organization get made. After speaking to many folks both inside and outside of my company, the most common theme I hear is that people keep performing manual, redundant calculations because managers want to see something in a very specific way, or the business culture dictates that employees use static slides for meetings and not look at live dashboards with up-to-date information. Many companies and departments would love to get out of having to spend hours on formatting spreadsheets to look a certain way, not to mention managing various versions of files due to sharing them over email with dozens of colleagues. The question remains, though, HOW do we get started.

The answer is: with a champion. In most companies today, there’s at least one leader who is curious about this “analytics” thing and what it can do. Almost all of the major visualization vendors have a free trial license that lasts anywhere from two-six weeks. Similar to how Morpheus courted Neo to join his team, practitioners on the ground need to:

  1. Get the revolution started by learning about tools/techniques and trying them out
  2. Find the right champion to join the cause by leveraging your network
  3. Demonstrate how life could be different if the right tools are available (including calculating the amount of money saved when people aren’t wasting time on non-value added work)
  4. Ask them to make the choice: red or blue…move forward or keep wearing blinders

The timing on when to start something like a Guild within your company is interesting. On one hand, a group of practitioners could make all the difference to help find and influence your champions. They can help get familiar with analytics and visualization tools and calculate the time savings that they see across various departments. They can also help craft the story and set the meeting up with a potential champion. On the other hand, it may be good to start small depending on how your organization values change and employee-led initiatives.

Sometimes just a small group spending a few hours outside of their daily responsibilities is the right answer to get things going until a champion comes in to pave the way forward for growth. In either case, the grassroots effort requires a bit of nurturing and support from the top, but the top-level champions will only respond if you show them how life can be better; how decisions can be made faster and with more confidence; and how you can supercharge the employees to do greater things if the right investment is made.

Are you struggling with getting the conversation started? Have you had a few false starts within your organization and would like to chat more to see how you might approach it? Like this article and follow me to learn more. Send me a note to connect, too, and let’s see how we can get the data culture revolution started at your company.

Matt Brooks is an accomplished and strategic leader with a wealth of experience in the definition, implementation and execution of digital transformation strategies that have significantly improved business performance and operational efficiencies in large, global manufacturing environments.

In his current role as Vice President, Data and Analytics Transformation at GE, his responsibilities include building out GE’s strategy to become a data-and algorithm-driven enterprise, leading and enhancing the entire 300,000 employee population across thousands of different roles and organizations. Matt’s previous positions at GE include Vice President Engineering, Data Analytics; Senior Director – Audit Analytics and Digital Tools; and People Analytics Technology Leader.