With the increasing use of data to make informed decisions at the South China Morning Post, the team has been dedicated to creating a data-driven culture across departments. To do that, we’ve focussed on democratising access to data and empowering employees from across departments to solve problems through data.
Our self-service data tool, Exodus, was one of our major tools being used to build that culture. Exodus was created in response to bottlenecks we noticed in the data flow across the company. As data fluency at SCMP increased, the ad-hoc demand for data increased substantially, which took up valuable time and resources for the data team and left other departments unable to make proactive data-informed decisions. With Exodus, anyone in the company can access the answers to their data queries in real-time.
Even after creating systems to allow employees outside the data department to access data relevant to their work, we were faced with a big challenge: getting departments to adopt our tools and implement data-driven decision making into their operations.
To address this, we created a programme to recruit and train internal data champions. This was a group of representatives from each department we armed with data analytics skills, tools, and metrics to best use data. They were also responsible for helping their respective teams understand why data matters and how to access and apply it to their day-to-day workflows.
After receiving training, data champions could take their skills back to their teams and drive the adoption of data-informed decision-making across the company. Through the data champions programme, we aimed to encourage proactive use of data and empower departments to solve their own unique data-related problems.
The data champions programme began with a survey to assess the data fluency of each department. We invited department heads to participate so we could better understand the departments’ data needs and how better access to data could solve problems particular to their departments.
Armed with survey data, we asked department heads to nominate colleagues to undergo the data champion training. The eight-week process included online courses, industry events, and a capstone mini-project where each data champion used data to solve a business problem relevant to their department.
Data champion programme outcomes
Following the end of the training, we had formed a community of champions equipped to help spread data democratisation within the SCMP. For other departments within the company, the programme gave them an informed ambassador to help the rest of the team understand how to use data tools to solve problems.
But the project didn’t just benefit other departments. Within the data team, the data champion programme gave us a better understanding of how each department uses data and more use cases for how data can improve business outcomes across the company. Through the data champions, the data team now has points of contact within each department to brainstorm data project ideas, applications for Artificial Intelligence, and much more.
Several fantastic data projects also emerged from the programme that impacted operations across the company:
- The human resources team analysed numerous recruitment platforms and identified an outperforming platform, allowing the department to focus its energy and resources.
- The technology team implemented a tracker to count the number of clicks needed to achieve tasks and used the data to develop internal tools that provide a better user experience.
- The audience growth team analysed newsletter performance based on the sentiment of headlines and used the data to help craft better subject lines, leading to an increase in open rates.
- The magazine team analysed YouTube performances across YouTube search engine optimisation, content mix, and user engagement, and used the data to strategise ways to drive up views.
The magazine team’s data project had a measurable impact on the department’s business outcomes by coming up with nine actionable insights. By leveraging those insights, the team successfully grew Cosmopolitan’s YouTube views by 33% year-over-year and Elle’s by 43%.
What’s next in the Post’s drive to democratise access to data? The data team is hard at work to operationalise the data champions programme, develop new use cases across departments, and is getting ready to support the next cohort of data champions soon.