We’ve shared some conflicting views on the need for business partners, but is data everyone’s job really?

Should transforming a business into a data-led culture be the challenge for Data Science leader or CDO? Or should this cultural transformation be shared by everyone in the C Suite?

To make the contention that data is everyone’s job (or at least every leader’s job), I’m pleased to welcome a new guest blogger. David González is Group Head of Big Data Analytics & AI for Vodafone Business.

He first shared this blog post within Vodafone, but once I read it, I approached David to share it with our readers. I hope you see how relevant his message is to our leadership community. Whether or not you agree with his contention.

Over to David to talk you through his rallying cry…

A CDO is important, but data is everyone’s job

Ever since I started my career in the world of “Data Mining”, since renamed “Big Data and Advanced Analytics,” it has always been an area that has received huge levels of attention from businesses, consultants, media and technologists. Now, as the world begins to see its capabilities in action alongside other technologies, it is easier to see why.

No matter what sector or industry, any organisation that can understand and utilise the power of its data will have access to incredibly valuable insights and operational intelligence. From informing the business strategy to data-driven decision-making. Even a basic grasp of its potential can provide significant competitive edge and open up new opportunities.

However, in order to get to the stage where insights become actionable, every business must be willing to undertake a companywide reset of attitudes towards data. Furthermore, the need to address this issue is only becoming more urgent.

A growing source of untapped potential

The rapid adoption of new technologies which produce more data sources – such as Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices – means that businesses must get their strategy around data, Analytics and AI right or risk being left behind; because the rate of change is not slowing. Forbes recently revealed that around 90 percent of the world’s data was generated in the last two years alone.

What does that mean for businesses in the next two, three or five years?

As well as this, the evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning means that those who can effectively gather this data will have the capability to analyse it, draw out insight, build AI assets, automate processes to leverage it effectively and identify future trends at speed.

Yet despite this evidence, data still remains a “black-box” for many – untapped and unused. Organisations are literally flooded with it, including but not limited to CRM data, sales data and returns data. Deriving value from these pools at first can seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. Faced with this complexity, many cannot see the full value of what they have available.

Introducing expertise is just the beginning

Even for those who have started down the path of exploring and utilising their data, recognising the best way to manage it can be a challenge. For digitally conscious businesses, a key decision is to appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to lead these activities. According to one study from consultancy NewVantage Partners, only 12% of large companies worldwide had a CDO in 2012 – today the figure is 63%.

Undoubtedly, bringing in data specialists (and all related specialists such as data engineers, cloud/platform developers, data privacy and security experts, AI practitioners, data architects etc.) is a necessary first step in building the strategy and capability to deliver effective insight: but this alone is only a sticking-plaster solution.

Data is so integral to how businesses operate and succeed in today’s economy, that making the most of it really has to be everyone’s job.

Data is everyone’s job in today’s business

This means that the entire C-suite has to provide support, ensuring that their area is primed to harvest robust data and that stakeholders understand the value of using it in conjunction with Analytics and AI. Cascading down the organisation, business units need to use that data to experience the benefits it can deliver. Only then will individual teams begin to adapt their behaviour.

Whatever the stage of maturity, all businesses must consider their long-term approach. For those that already use data and analytics effectively, optimisation is needed to yield better returns from new technologies. For those at the beginning of their journey, an informed strategy is essential.

For all organisations, hiring a CDO is a great first step on any data journey. A CDO should not only be responsible for looking at data as an individual asset, but also as a whole to drive performance improvements across the organisation. They must bring all business teams and functions together, working towards a key set of principles as part of a privacy-by-design approach. This will support GDPR compliance in relation to the European Union, as well as any specific policies around data protection within your organisation or industry,

However, only with holistic support and buy-in from the whole organisation will companies truly benefit from the potential of Big Data and Analytics.

Have you been considering data just your job as a leader?

I hope you found that helpful & challenging. Thanks to David for the case he makes for genuine cultural change.

What about you? If you are a CDO or data leader in your business, have you been taking too much responsibility? Should you be sharing the load or do you disagree?

I’d love to hear your perspective on this potentially controversial perspective. Please use the comment boxes below or engage with our conversation on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest & Reddit.

Looking forward to the wider conversation…