Will 2015 be the year that organisations finally become data leaders?

During the past couple of years we have seen a fever pitch in organisations’ anointing proxies to the status of superheroes in respect to data and analytics officers. While there have been many such appointments, most are now being scrutinised as the widening gulf between the rhetoric and reality becomes more apparent.

This effort to create ‘chief whatever officers’ has been foolhardy in my opinion, as it has completely dodged the need for the board and CEO to become directly accountable for the organisations management and exploitation of data and their leverage of analytics across the enterprise to create a culture of evidence-based decision making.

>See also: The holy grail of big data: Becoming a predictive enterprise

In 2015, I would like to create much more than awareness of this underlying challenge, but to make actionable its solution in what I think will be the year of data leadership.

In the year of data leadership, CEOs and their boards – whether public, private of the third sector – must accept that they, not IT, are fully accountable for all things data and analytics.

They should embrace this accountability and make it core to their strategies and operational plans. I challenge them to step up to this leadership mantle and provide the organisation with a plan of action to put it on a trajectory to becoming a ‘predictive enterprise’ within five years.

This decision-making transformation would move them from being a gut-based decision-making organisation (relying on experience and anecdotes) to one where evidence (facts, decision science and the appropriate amount of intuition) guide all decisions at every level.

This is an ambitious undertaking for even the most agile of organisations, but a necessary one if the competitive advantages of a predictive enterprise are ever going to be realised. To accomplish such a transformation, I strongly recommend the following approach.

Firstly, immerse the CEO, board and senior executive team in a series of boot camps designed to immediately (and measurably) raise their acumen and competencies in the domains of decision science and analytics – you cannot lead what you don’t understand.

Secondly, make data, information and analytics core competencies in your strategic and operational endeavors. Make then pervasive and break down silos and centres of excellence to make capabilities mainstream and ubiquitous to all aspects of your operational domain. This will require investment in staff development and in the early stages may require shadowing of staff with outside experts, mentors and coaches.

Finally, manifest cultural adoption by all members of the organisation of this new strategic paradigm i.e. becoming a predictive enterprise. Organisational culture is the shadow of the CEO, board and senior executive team.

It is found in every corridor and behind every door across the enterprise and is molded from the Top-down. To begin to change a culture requires top-down leadership to changes it behavior and modify all cultural norms and activities.

The entire leadership team must engage with the organisation directly (with support by change professionals) to lead by example in regards to championing the new direction and its virtues.  

>See also: The state of open data

This three-pronged approach will produce the maximum results in the shortest period of time and requires close coordination, substantial investment of time and resources to succeed. It is truly transformational and should not be a sub-priority to other enterprise-wide strategic and operational initiatives.

The nexus of top-down leadership, cultural adoption and the enabling core competencies of data, information and analytics creates a unique strategic framework for becoming a predictive enterprise. All components are required to work in concert to achieve a true transformational outcome within any organisation that wants to fully exploit data and analytics for competitive advantage.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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