Data Literacy AI Strategy Digital Transformation

Est. reading time: 5 minutes
Author: Solange Borrego

Manufacturers need Data Champions to help them succeed in today’s digital world. To learn more about how you can find your Data Champion for your team or company, read on!

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Solange Borrego

Quality Engineer with 5 years of experience in manufacturing, pivoting to Data Science and AI.


Your business is undergoing a digital transformation. You’re moving from an analogue to a digital world, and you need to digitally transform your processes in order to keep up with the pace of change.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020, “Nearly three-quarters of manufacturing managers worldwide consider data sharing to improve their operations.” Data Champions are critical for success in this endeavour, as they are the employees who balance between different stakeholders: business, IT, and external groups (such as Third-Party Providers) and are able to get everyone in your company excited about the digital journey all the manufacturing enterprises have to embark on to get ahead. Their communication and interpersonal skills, knowledge of how your business operates, and technical data-related proficiency are key to your company’s successful shift towards an end-to-end digitalization.

Data Champions are digital transformation catalysts

One of the most important aspects of your transformation is to shift the existing culture into one where a data-driven approach (as well as the necessary tech tools) is at the forefront of your organization’s DNA. This shift needs to leverage Data Champions, who will engage with and get buy-in from your employees, from the operators to technicians, and up to your management team. For this step, clear communication is crucial, with a focus on the advantages this journey will bring to your organisation.

There can be a few scenarios in this first step depending on your company’s focus on delivering data-driven solutions to the shop-floor so far.

Some capabilities

If your factories already have some sort of automatic process that everyone is already comfortable with e.g. an automatic dashboard for your internal KPIs, or sensors to detect nonconformities in your products, then this culture shift has already started to happen, even if on a more subconscious level, and highlighting these successful applications is something the Data Champions should do. They can help grow the use and extension of these solutions in the future, as well as implementing new, exciting ones.

It’s all new

If your manufacturing floor has little to no digital solutions implemented, this culture shift responsibility and foundation is even more pressing. For an effective buy-in, and leveraging on the Data Champions, you must get feedback from all your production lines and supporting teams (like Supply Chain, Logistics, Quality, Maintenance) to narrow down what your main pain points are and start working on their data-driven solutions with the support of who first raised them. This will be important to establish trust in your proposed digital transformation.

Data Champions help you prioritise and improve across the business

Since Data Champions have insights from your business, IT, and external parties, they are the best people to help you prioritise opportunities for improvement. They are the ones who communicate with all stakeholders, so they know which projects are best to tackle urgently, considering also the ease to implement certain tech tools in your factory. They are also the ones to go to when you need insights on how to improve the customer experience of these tools once they are implemented.

Identifying internal Data Champions

Even if this is a new role or perspective in your company, the ones who are already data-driven in your organisation, who challenge people to have a more data-led conversation, who already advocate for data solutions in the shop-floor, who go out of their way to find solutions when they are not too clear, and who can be a good mentor for anyone should be the ones being evaluated for this new approach. Data Champions should also have a clear vision of your business objectives, and how data will help achieve them in less time.

Moreover, depending on the size of your business, you need to have more than one Data Champion, so you can make progress more quickly. These additional Data Champions, ideally, should not be from the same department or have the same role in your business, so you can take different experiences and views into account when making your business decisions related to data implementations.

Supporting Data Champions

After identifying the Data Champions, you need to give your support to empower them and their responsibility in this journey.

Although Data Champions are the ones who are already driving this mindset, it is very important to give them the right training, so they can continue to grow their knowledge and skills set, as well as being comfortable with new tools. This investment will guarantee your organisation also has the latest know-how, since the Data Champions will carry that knowledge over. If your organisation has several factories, it is also interesting for the Data Champions to benchmark with the others to see different digital improvements in similar technologies.

You also need to ensure they have management-level support to grow the use of data and give them the opportunity to showcase their knowledge with external people e.g. in external industry events, where they have the possibility to network, share, and brainstorm with like-minded individuals.

Finally, you need to ensure that the Data Champions are embedded in the routines of the organisation, so everyone knows that these are the employees who are helping drive this mindset change. Having the Data Champions involved in and giving support to your meetings and stand-ups will be highly beneficial for this.

Finding Data Champions externally

Sometimes, you may be stumped and not able to find the right person to be your Data Champion already in your organisation. At this point, you can analyse your outsourcing/external partners and evaluate if you need to employ an external consultant to be your Data Champion. Ideally, this should be someone who already has experience in manufacturing, and some technical know-how of the kind of solutions that can be implemented to help you be successful in your journey.

Further reading

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