Recently, chief information officers, chief data officers, and other leaders got together to discuss how data analytics programs can help organizations achieve transformation, as well as how to measure that value contribution. We shared our insights at this CIO Online virtual roundtable event, which included leaders from organizations in healthcare, financial services, utilities, communications, and more.
The discussion focused mostly on data management issues and opportunities around “supply” — its quality, ownership, access, and other matters. Supply and consumption are symbiotic principles that together maximize the value of the enterprise data asset. While “consumption” matters are just as critical, getting data supply right is essential to ensuring that data — and the insights it drives — are available and trustworthy.
Our participants report encountering the view that data analytics programs don’t justify the effort to implement and operate them — even as companies spend more on big data and analytics every year. These leaders also struggle to set up metrics that demonstrate their programs’ achievements of transformation objectives.
These two challenges are closely linked: Better metrics on data analytics program value would go a long way toward dispelling the perception that these programs are not worthwhile. In our conversation, we acknowledged that doubts about their worth is a symptom that the business is not equipped to derive full value from the program. It’s a situation that calls for empowering the business to read, analyze, work, and even argue with data — effectively and confidently.
This post summarizes our conversation and describes some strategies we discussed to derive and demonstrate data analytics program value.
A community of teams
Organizations can support data analytics program effectiveness by ensuring that all impacted stakeholders (e.g., business, IT, data management, security, risk and compliance etc.) are engaged appropriately in sustained development and management of trusted data and insights. In other words, treating data and the insights it provides like any other critical corporate asset.
Mark Carson, Managing Director – Data & Analytics Leader at Protiviti, described this sustained engagement model as “a holistic, cross-functional approach that starts, and ends, with business value”; a way of looking at modern data and analytics that resonated with our participants.
In addition to consistent cross-functional engagement, senior leadership buy-in and support is paramount to ensure the organization’s corporate strategy and its data and analytics strategy remain symbiotic in realizing business value. This alignment is essential to any data analytics program because it focuses program efforts on mission-critical transformation.
Arguing with the data
In successful data analytics programs, business users absorb, assess, and act on the data by reading, working, analyzing, and arguing with it.
… Arguing with data? When data owners achieve maximum comfort with analytical tools, when they attain maximum literacy with the data itself, then they will use data “to support a larger narrative intended to communicate some message to a particular audience,” in the words of a formative early paper on data literacy. This is when data analytics programs deliver their greatest value. Empowering the business to argue with data is the highest goal.
Measuring data analytics’ value
Participants shared questions about how to measure data analytics program value. Metrics fall within the governance domain, which is the purview of owners and stewards together.
Lucas Lau, Senior Director – Machine Learning & AI Practice Leader at Protiviti, outlined a list of categories to simplify metrics. Considering only these four dimensions can help leaders simplify the seemingly complex problem of demonstrating value:
- How does our use of data analytics increase revenue?
- How does the data analytics program reduce losses for the business?
- How is data analytics helping us drive down capital expenditure and operating costs?
- How are we using data analytics to manage enterprise risk?
Measuring along these dimensions dispels doubts that data analytics programs don’t deliver value. The answers to these four questions help program leaders gain traction: in the absence of doubt, more gets done. The questions offer an additional benefit when they generate new ideas about further advantages a data analytics program could deliver.
Gaining momentum through early wins
Early wins provide momentum as well as a foundation from which teams build a sense of community and confidence. As organizations acknowledge that business transformation is not a project, but an ongoing process, the confidence-boosting, competence-building experience gained via early wins provide the basis for ongoing tracking of achievements and corrections to data-driven decisions as needed.
The power of the roundtable
Leaders can help their data analytics programs deliver value by articulating the data ownership role for the business community. Then, they can measure program value along the lines of increased revenue, reduced losses, lower costs, and better-managed risk. They can focus on early wins that build team confidence and competence as the foundation for ongoing program effectiveness.
The ideas we generated together highlight what can happen when a community of leaders discusses barriers to success in a confidential environment. We thank CIO Online for the opportunity to meet with and advise the leaders who joined us for this roundtable.
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Connect with the authors:
Managing Director – Data & Analytics Leader at Protiviti
Senior Director – Machine Learning & AI Practice Leader at Protiviti