Oleg Kravets, Global Head of Data and Analytics,TTC
Big data, data revolution, data-driven decision making… It seems like these terms are everywhere nowadays. You can hardly find a company in the world that does not embark on a journey to become data driven.
But do we fully understand what constitutes a data-driven leadership approach? And more importantly, what do companies and business leaders need to actually do to become data-driven?
There are so many opinions on this topic as it’s quite frankly a rather subjective concept.
But let’s try to decipher it together. I like to use Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework as a tool to explore complex concepts.
So, let’s try to answer the simple questions of Why? What? and How? and see where this gets us. Shall we?
WHY? Why do we need a new leadership approach?
Our world is changing, and the speed of change is mind-blowing. It is hard to know exactly what this decade will look like in the end, but we can clearly see some key emerging trends that will define the business landscape in the next 5-10 years.
Amongst them are ever-increasing abundance of data, massively improving Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, constantly rising customer experience expectations and quickly evolving security and privacy issues, to name a few.
New technologies which try to tackle these trends pop up every day. MarTech, Data Lakes, Customer Data Platforms, Data Fabrics and so on, were little-known concepts even 10 years ago. The focus on data, on all possible data, is insane!
Old ways of doing things and traditional leadership styles simply will not cut it anymore. To stay relevant, one needs to adapt, because if they don’t, their competition certainly will.
WHAT? What is a Data-Driven Leadership Approach?
Being data-driven means using data, rather than intuition or personal experience to make business decisions.
Cultivating a data-driven approach on all levels of the organisation is what this approach is all about.
There are key steps business leaders need to take in order to successfully implement the data-driven approach:
1. Inspire to use data for timely decision-making in order to realise measurable business benefits:
Realising real business benefits (increase in revenue, reduction in costs) from data initiatives should be the main goal of any data-driven transformation. Forming Data teams just to play with concepts in Sandboxes and not challenge/change existing business processes based on data will not lead to any meaningful results.
2. Cultivate self-service data and analytics environment:
Self-service analytics is a concept that has been gathering huge momentum recently. Providing Data and Business teams with access to cleaned and organised datasets for them to explore on their own terms has seemed to deliver benefits to early adopters. The days of asking IT teams to run new reports each time the new data is required should be probably gone for good.
3. Leverage AI opportunities:
Companies can hardly succeed this decade if they don’t start to experiment with Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) technologies basically now. The efficiencies that these new technologies bring will leave all non-adopters far behind even within traditional industries.
4. Ensure strong data governance:
With the enormous size of data at each company’s disposal, ensuring strong data governance becomes a paramount and strategic task. Commercial and reputational risks from potential data breaches or legislation fines could be huge, but more importantly, customers will choose other brands which do the best possible job of keeping their private data safe.
Data-Driven Leadership Approach is not a thing you can implement overnight, but taking small incremental steps towards a clearly defined vision should make business transformation journeys more successful.
HOW? How to implement a Data-Driven Leadership approach?
When you know “why” and “what”, “how” becomes easy, right? Well, not really…
“How” is what makes or breaks amazing concepts when it gets down to implementation. It is actually for a reason that the “How” circle comes before “What” in Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework—truly understanding “how” after understanding “why” will define a path to successful implementation of “what”. And it is true for the data-driven approach as well.
On the surface, it’s probably not rocket science to figure out that to be successful in data-driven leadership approach, business leaders should focus on three main things:
1. Start with Data and Analytics strategy:
Having a clear enterprise strategy which focuses on delivering real business benefits from data and analytics projects is the key to success.
2. Foster data culture within your organisation:
No matter how good the strategy is, if there is no buy-in from the business, the initiatives will probably fail.
3. Lead by example:
As with all things, to embed adoption, one has to lead the way.
The challenging part though is to implement the required changes and most importantly make them stick. Only by embedding the data-driven approach as the new norm leaders can call their adoption successful. When the “How” part (being the strategy and culture) is ticking along nicely, the “What” part can be changed and adopted to new circumstances as required.
Defining a Data-Driven Leadership Approach is not an easy task but implementing and embedding it within an organisation is much more challenging.
Remember to ask yourself the questions of Why? How? and What? and hopefully, your journey will be headed in the right direction!