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    November 18, 2019

    How Microsoft Got Employees to Embrace the Power of Data with Power BI

    There’s power in data. In fact, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella encourages Microsoft employees to use data to guide their every action. Companies generate a good deal of data in their day-to-day operations — data that can lend employees insights for better decision making, improved processes and greater customer success and retention.

    However, all that information is no good unless you have way to access it, manipulate it, learn from it and act on it. That’s where Microsoft Power BI comes in. “Power BI is a tool that's absolutely changed not only the way I view our business success and metrics, but it's changing conversations inside of Microsoft,” Nadella said at Envision 2016.

    Giving your teams the ability to own this type of insight and responsibility means empowering them with the right tools and the ability to explore. Only then can they direct those insights to create value. Embracing data fosters what Nadella calls “living in a data culture.”

    Here’s how:

    Create a Data Journey

    Companies can create a data culture by setting employees on a journey, moving from initial awareness to adoption. First, the teams need to become aware of the products and features available to them. Then, they need to understand why they’re valuable. Third is enablement: They must learn to use the tools. Finally, they adopt the tools, using them regularly and effectively.

    Microsoft does this by supporting employees from leadership on down, encouraging them to use data exploration tools daily.

    Be Agile

    Microsoft encouraged Power BI usage within the company by treating the journey like a startup venture. They experimented and adjusted in an agile manner, disseminating surveys, creating conversations and using listening tools to get a sense of employee engagement and response. They took all the feedback and used it as fodder for more innovation. Microsoft tried different approaches for adoption, including:

    • Supporting early adopters. Microsoft helped early adopters build Power BI solutions. Those teams were dubbed “Power BI champions.” They shared what they learned, and kindled more interest in the tools.
    • Training. When launching Power BI, Microsoft held more than 60 virtual and live training sessions during the deployment journey. These trainings showed employees how to use Power BI, and how to glean value from it using real-life examples. An internal enablement website also served to help employees get started, with information on products, learning tools, case studies and success stories.
    • Modelling strong leadership. Microsoft leaders at all levels were integral in encouraging employees to embrace Power BI in their daily work. This kind of role modeling helped change behaviors and create the culture change they were after.

    Create a Culture Shift

    Thanks to Microsoft’s leadership setting their teams on a journey of experimentation and implementation, the company is now using Power BI broadly. Their teams are truly invested in living in a data culture. Microsoft teams across the company are using Power BI to transform their business.

    Like Microsoft, distributors and manufacturers are finding benefits in Power BI’s tools and dashboards. If companies cannot ship on time because of problems in the supply chain or production line, they risk customer dissatisfaction and threats against sales. Responding quickly to these issues helps companies stay competitive, prevent costly delays and avoid errors. To do this, they must monitor and optimize their operations. Power BI provides insights through operational data to save time, increase productivity and detect anomalies faster.

    For Microsoft, driving Power BI adoption began with launching a company-wide culture shift. It took ingenuity, time, training and supportive leadership. The results? Greater employee empowerment.

    Ole Isaksen

    Ole has spent nearly four decades in technology, with a history of success leading growth for resellers for Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Oracle. In 1995, he joined Damgaard Data to build a channel for Concorde XAL and Axapta (now Microsoft Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations). Ole served as Partner and Vice President for Columbus IT, a major Microsoft AX reseller, followed by Evergreen Data Systems, Inc. and EFS Technology, supporting both Microsoft AX and Oracle technologies. Ole lives in California and he loves crossfit and indoor cycling.

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