Why the C-Suite needs to understand data management

Dashboards, Business Intelligence apps, oh and those massive Excel workbooks. Senior management has always wanted those snapshot views of what’s going on in the company, all in one place, easily accessed so decisions can be made. This is business intelligence Nirvana. It’s an ideal companies aim for with varying degrees of success. Many businesses are hiring Chief Data Officers, but research shows they tend to be around for just 1,000 days. That’s not long.  Then there’s all the analytics people, SalesOps and MarOps and Business Analysts. Even small to medium sized businesses struggle with getting the right information to the right person at the right time to make the right decision.

Through my work, I’ve come to find the biggest challange and gap for businesses when it comes to getting the right information. It’s a lack of understanding at the executive level, across the C-Suite with data management and what the necessary work is and tools required to deliver. Senior executives don’t need to get into the weeds of data management, but they do need to have an understanding at the strategic level to be able to guide the company towards being what I call an “Intelligent Business.” Chief Data Officers and BI projects tend to fail because there’s no or little senior management understanding of this area.
So what then, does senior management  need to know and understand? There are three areas that the executive should understand clearly and provide guidance on. Not just to get better dashboards and business intelligence. But also to protect the company and its data, employees and board of directors and make sure budgets are applied accordingly.

This is all predicated on the DIKAR model and approach. Which stands for Data, Information, Knowledge, Action, Results. Everything starts with the data. How it is created, where it comes from, where it goes and how it is managed. As soon as you take raw data, such as sales  sold data and process it, like making a report that creates charts it’s becomes information. Once that information is shared and insights are found, it becomes knowledge. Once it becomes knowledge you can take actions (like increase the marketing budget in an area) and then you can determine the results from the actions.
A business needs to turn data into information which becomes knowledge when you use it to make decisions that enables actions to be taken and results to be measured. And it all starts with the data. If the business doesn’t understand inputs and doesn’t manage the data, you will never get to the point of making good decisions because your data is poorly managed. That’s a costly expense. Also, it is not the role of IT to manage your data. That’s the role of Information Management experts and data analysts.

  1. Information Asset Management: A common saying today is that “data is the new oil”, but oil is finite as a resource, data isn’t. This is where senior management, especially the CFO or VP Finance, need to understand the term “infonomics.” it’s fairly new, but provides a way for a company to tangibly account for its information as an asset and get it on the books. This helps senior management look at data in a whole new light.
  2. Privacy and Security: If you think your business is immune to a data breach you are completely wrong. Just Google data breaches and click the news results. Apple itself is betting billions in market opportunity by taking consumer privacy seriously. Privacy laws in Canada will soon go from a $100,000 fine to over $25 Million in 2022, with Order Making powers for the Privacy Commissioner. This is serious now. Europe has the GDPR and California just made some significant changes. Expect more states and countries to follow.
  3. Information Awareness: Executives have enough on their plate, they don’t need to learn the details of data management or information management. But they should have an awareness. Chief Data Officers often leave, as do analysts, precisely because the executive doesn’t understand the role of information and the people turning it into actionable knowledge. Thus there is little to no executive sponsorship and projects fail. Executives make critical decisions from data everyday. If they understand where it comes from and how, they can ask better questions on accuracy and better guide strategy.

Businesses aren’t going to decrease the amount of data they collect. It will only increase. Int eh data warehousing world they’re already using the term “data lakes”. One wonders when we may start seeing “data oceans.”

You can also watch my interview on Tech & Beer this summer on data management where I discuss these issues in more detail.

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