Delivering a Data-Driven Organisation Requires Cultural Change and Data Literate Minds
Rapp UK chief marketing sciences officer, Andy Rowe looks at how brands need to consider becoming more data driven.
“We need to be data-driven.” “Help us become customer-first.” These are the concerns we are hearing raised most frequently by CMOs. Why is that?
Well, the evidence points to data-driven brands being: 23 times more likely to acquire customers*; six times more likely to retain customers*; 19 times more likely to be profitable*; and having the potential to reduce their costs ten-fold. **
Those that have invested in data are also growing at 30% year on year, and are set to take $1.8 trillion from their less informed counterparts in the coming years.***
That’s a compelling argument for the shift to a data-driven focus to be high on the C-suite agenda.
Yet it’s also the case that 69% of businesses are failing**** to achieve this evolution, due to issues with data literacy and culture. I believe the two go hand-in-hand. A lack of literacy at the top will flow down the organisation, with the result that no-one can quite articulate what it is people are buying into.
It’s also true that data literate people seem to enjoy the use of acronyms, jargon and buzzwords to shroud what can be relatively simple in mystery. This is where we see 'data literacy level blocking' - those at the top with low literacy levels blocking required investment because they don’t understand it, and those who can explain it avoiding simplification in an attempt to maintain their heightened status.
Now more than ever is it imperative that data literate stakeholders are at the table making decisions on how to progress into these ever-evolving new normal times. These times are unprecedented (sorry for including that phrase but they are!) and data about new behaviours and trends will be key to companies being able to adapt and continually adapt to maximise the market at any given time. In a Forbes article, Demystifying Artificial Intelligence in the Corporation, it quotes O’Reilly Media Founder and CEO Tim O’Reilly “Everyone is talking about 'AI' these days but most companies have no real idea of how to put it to use in their own business”. The article emphasises the need that with new technologies requires a new cultural change in the mindset of the business and that each new technology revolution breeds new business leaders, and its these leaders who let go of old assumptions about the way things work. It is a culture of iteration, experimentation and adaptation that is required to succeed.
What’s needed is a shift from being solely reliant on gut feelings or HiPPOs (Highest Paid Persons’ Opinion) to one that combines vision with robust foundations. The rise of the Chief Data Officer is important here. It’s a role that existed in just 12% of data-driven organisations seven years ago, and is now present in 68%***, and was created to ensure that data literate people are part of the decision-making process. These CDOs need to define but, more importantly, explain, in simple terms, the building blocks, investment and time required to achieving a data-driven visions, as well as de-mystify what each step entails.
While it’s encouraging that companies are now giving these experts the voice they need, it’s essential to make sure you pick the right expert. Many think they know data but underestimate vastly the time required to do the work and the costs associated. One particular warning sign is an obsession with the buzz phrase 'machine learning', which can leave organisations weaving around in very costly circles in the absence of very clear navigation (as made clear in 'Machine Learning: The High Interest Credit Card of Technical Debt' highlighting the hidden ongoing costs that often aren’t accounted for by those less savvy.).
With this in mind, there are three clear areas on which to focus:
1. Make sure you have data literate minds at the table – don’t BLOCK at the top.
2. Take care to have the RIGHT data literate minds at the table.
3. And, for data literate people, stop trying to confuse or bedazzle, explain everything as it actually is.
Due to the rise of awareness around data privacy, and the need for strong ethics relating to data capture, manipulation and usage, we need the best data literate minds to be leading our industry. If not, companies will end up with big lawsuits, consumers will lose trust in what is happening with their data, and the belief in the data-driven vision will fade alongside success rates in pursuing it.
*McKinsey Global Institute