Business leaders aren’t getting ‘hands-on’ with data

Why aren’t C-level leaders driving data-driven decision making?
1 August 2019

Data-driven decision making should be led from the boardroom. Source: Shutterstock

In today’s world— one increasingly powered by Industry 4.0 technologies, any business that wishes to see success should learn how to manage, navigate and manipulate data themselves. 

After all, these data offer great insights that many would probably miss out. From sales analytics to employee performance; everything that’s data-driven would seem more accurate than pure assumptions. Today’s most successful businesses are adept at data-driven decision making. 

But a recent survey by Deloitte on 1048 executives working at companies with over 500 employees revealed that despite knowing of its benefits, they were still reluctant to handle data themselves; they’d leave IT managers or team members to the job and report the next course of action to them, which ultimately hampers the process of going completely data-driven.

Benefits of data-driven decision making

We can blame it on culture, or even on the fact that the chances of data being breached could become higher as more individuals gain access. But, whatever reasons are given, it still doesn’t water down the fact that the best person to lead the charge are business leaders themselves. 

As data endpoints proliferate, businesses are now inundated with information which can direct their next course of action, and there are now dozens of tools and services that businesses can use to translate all these into valuable insights to drive better business decisions. 

C-level executives that know how to manage and manipulate data often notice that they could do wonders with it. As noted by Deloitte’s survey, 48 percent of the survey respondents noted that they surpassed their business targets by learning how to navigate this sea of data themselves. 

Harvard Business Review also noted that more companies are seeing valuable improvements in their business from their adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data projects. 

But building a fully data-driven culture from top to bottom is by itself a challenge to many companies that still rely on the old way of working. C-levels that show reluctance to work ‘hands-on’ with data, won’t the best leaders to ensure and facilitate businesses utilizing it to the best of their abilities in making strategic, data-led decisions. 

With over a third of business leaders ‘uncomfortable’ with getting involved with data, it’s unsurprising that research by NVP found that 72 percent are yet to forge a data-driven culture in their company.

Examples of data-driven success

Reasons are abundant as to why there are still hiccups in trying adapt a data-driven business culture. From lacking funds; to lacking experienced staff. However, the main reason would still be the fact that many companies still refuse to move on from their old ways because no one is leading it.

In fact, a data-driven culture should be embraced. The benefits are abundant. Adopting a data-driven working culture would empower everyone, from staff to executives, to better utilize their time and resources, while ensuring results from their decisions are always consistent.

As always, the tail follows the head, hence why executives should be the ones leading the change. 

One such company that found considerable success by implementing data-driven solutions is Adobe when they used data to make their operations more efficient; led by their VP for information and data services, Mark Picone.

“We treat the data as a product,” Picone said. “Having a product approach to what we’re building allows us to build once and serve many and create a set of capabilities that is very impactful.”

Netflix is another company that found success in using data-driven solutions. By analyzing the streaming habits of their 130 million subscribers, they were able to come up with better content and make better business decisions including which shows to remake. This change was led by Ted Sarandos, the Chief Content Officer of Netflix.

There’s much to gain from adopting a data-driven work culture as it allows work to be more productive. More often than not, it begins with an executive decision, as noted by NVP’s research, “If companies hope to transform, they must begin to address the cultural obstacles”.