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Building Data Literacy into the Business Culture at RCS: Maritza Curry

Some companies treat data strategies and business strategies as separate entities. But for RCS Head of Data Maritza Curry, the two are linked, and data literacy is the glue that holds them together



“Where do people fit into an organization’s overall data strategy?” Corinium Intelligence MD for MEA Craig Steward asked Maritza Curry, Head of Data at financial services company RCS, at the 2021 Business of Data Festival.

During their ‘fireside chat’, the two delved into the convergence of data literacy and business literacy and how more can be done to drive a collaborative, data-driven business culture. Implementing new processes and technologies is relatively straightforward, Steward suggested. But people are dynamic and can be resistant to change.

Curry replied that people are an ‘absolutely critical’ part of an organization’s data strategy, and too many companies forget this.

“Many reasons are considered when data projects don’t deliver what they promised, or when the strategy takes longer than expected,” Curry said. “But often, one of the primary reasons is that we don’t consider the ‘people’ component when putting the strategy together.”

“People are always involved in data and analytics initiatives, and we have to make sure we think about the implications of this,” she added. “Whether it’s a customer whose data you’re analyzing and need to think about in terms of ethics, or whether it’s somebody in the company receiving the analytics and [who] has to use them.”

“When a business introduces initiatives such as a new BI tool, it shouldn't just be about driving adoption but also upskilling staff who’ll use the tool,” she continued. “The data strategy is far reaching. We have to think across the data value chain, from those in business to technical employees.”

“Even if you have the best business intelligence tools and your data quality is fantastic, if business can’t extract the insights, what value can you expect from your investment?” she quipped.

RCS’ Approach to Promoting Data Literacy and Culture

Curry said RCS’ executives accept that data strategy execution touches every part of a business, and that data teams should be involved in more than simply reporting or creating data products.

Today, she collaborates closely with stakeholders from other business units to ensure her data strategy aligns with business needs. Meanwhile, her team is involved across all levels of the data value chain, providing staff with timely, high-quality insights and nurturing an organizational culture that supports data-driven ways of working.

“Every company is unique in terms of its data culture, so strategies will be different,” she said. “It’s important to align employees with the strategy’s expected outcomes. If your strategy is to establish organizational data governance, you have to think about what that means for the operating model and organizational structure.”

“Silos are how data strategies traditionally fail”

Maritza Curry, Head of Data, RCS

At the same time, Curry is working to ensure staff across the organization have the right skills to work fluently with data. She said data leaders should partner with their colleagues in HR when designing and scaling successful data literacy programs.

“If you want to drive an organizational data culture, HR is a good place to start, because it can help define your value proposition to data and analytics talent,” she said. “It can also help set up an analytics academy, because that’s where the learning and development resources are. HR has probably already implemented other big change management programs.”

“Data really is owned and used by everyone in the company,” she added. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Partner with other departments [and] leverage their work. Silos are how data strategies traditionally fail.”

In addition to establishing formal data literacy programs, Curry said informal meetups such as monthly knowledge-sharing sessions between data teams and business units can be great for building cross-functional collaboration.

RCS uses these to encourage business stakeholders to explore how data can be used to solve business problems.

“You can also use out-of-the-box ideas such as a competition for the best AI use case or create artwork from visualizations,” she added. “Be creative. Get people excited about data on both sides of the fence.”

The Business of Data Festival took place on 20-22 July 2021. The three-day global stream saw data and analytics discussions with industry leaders, taking place over four time zones. Click here now to access the sessions on-demand.