One of the key results of the big data revolution is that the need for businesses to move data out of the IT department and into the boardroom is now widely understood and accepted. C-level executives are increasingly seeing data as a business asset, rather than a by-product of operations or merely something that the IT department needs to store and manage.
Board-level conversations are no longer focused on historical data in the latest financial reports, but on how to get real-time access to current data to shape strategies and help improve decision-making. Everyone around the boardroom table is excited at the prospect of transforming what was once a hard-to-manage by-product of business operations into a valuable asset to help them gain an edge over the competition. In theory, all directors stand to benefit and each will have their own uses for data and their own reasons to apply analytics.
Chief Executive Officers today are increasingly prioritising data governance, security and sustainability and they see getting access to real-time information as key to improving their decision-making process around these metrics. Chief Marketing Officers are eager to use data to hone customer profiles and target prospects more accurately. Human Resources directors are looking forward to getting hold of information on staff retention and talent development and Chief Financial Officers are excited about the prospect of using data to detect fraud and make more finely-tuned, forward-looking predictions.
All of this is hugely positive and it’s great that the ownership, management and governance of big data assets is moving out of IT and into the business lines where it can be used to shape business strategy. It’s critical that this continues to happen.
But that cannot and should not be the end of the matter. In other words, this shift is not enough in itself. Now that senior managers in many businesses have started processing and analysing data, they need to take the data and push it out to staff on the very front line. This will enable them really to drive customer loyalty by improving the quality of the service they are delivering and to allow them to close leads and complete deals.
Unfortunately, we are not yet seeing this happen extensively. There is a disconnect and it is a serious concern because, if a business is getting valuable insight from its data, then the people who need this insight more than any other group are those that are engaging with customers.
This is potentially a big stumbling block for organisations. There are still significant barriers around cultural readiness to navigate before this vision becomes a reality. And there are vital issues to negotiate around data management, data governance and, perhaps most importantly of all, trust before organisations can be successful in taking data from the business lines out onto the frontline. It’s a complex challenge. But I believe overcoming it is critical – and I’m optimistic that businesses will do so.
It’s the inevitable conclusion of the big data story. But if they are to exploit the full potential of their data and use it to drive profitability and business advantage, organisations need to ensure they make it happen soon.
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