Data leaders are emerging as one of the most critical roles to usher in the Future of Work era. There are a number of obvious reasons as to why….
Being “data-driven” is essentially a corporate mandate these days
The amount of data we have to process is nothing short of massive
The cost of NOT elevating dark data is staggeringly high
The advanced analytics race is on, with so much opportunity to take advantage of data science, predictive intelligence, and AI/ML
Intel about where to take our businesses next is literally at our fingertips like never before
But enacting the above successfully requires vision, specialized leadership and commitment to unlock impact.
The Data leader’s influence grows by the day, particularly as businesses face mounting pressure to become truly high performing, data-fueled, and futures-oriented. Consider that the number of leading global firms with a Chief Data Officer rose to 27% in 2022, up from 21 percent the previous year. What’s more, 93% of companies plan to continue to increase investments in the area of data and analytics (EY Study).
Heads of Data have emerged as one of the most vital connections between leadership goals, vision, and mission and all the operational components and functional areas of their business. From working in partnership with Executive Leadership (CEO, COO, CFO, etc.) to departmental leaders (heads of Marketing, Sales, Product) to tech leaders (heads of IT, engineering, technology), there is no portion of the business that Data leadership does not touch.
Because of their centrality, Data leaders are well positioned to be bridge builders within the organization. The leaders who can successfully eliminate data silos, shift the org to be truly insights-enabled, and inspire the entire company to use data and advanced analytics to drive towards their most important growth chapters.
Let’s dive into 3 of the most important bridges the Data leader should make…
Bridge: Executive Leadership Team
Heads of Data need to understand the highest level business aspirations, from how the business desires to make and grow revenue to the KPIs and OKRs that are vital to seeing into organizational health to who the business wants to be tomorrow. That’s why it’s essential that they work directly with Executive leadership daily.
Let’s reflect on the whiplash shifts that technology companies experienced during the pandemic. The demand for tech propelled growth unlike anything we have experienced in recent times. Most of these firms doubled down on their growth projections and hired at an almost euphoric pace. And why not? All indicators at the time seemed to point to endless upward trending as the disruption from the pandemic seemed codified as our new reality.
But alas, as the world reopened and a return to “normalcy” took hold, new variables were re-introduced into the analytics and these same companies were suddenly forced into massive layoffs. Did these companies and leaders get it wrong? Perhaps. But this story amplifies the necessity of strong Data Leadership, at the table, and working hand and hand with executives to navigate the direction of business — constantly working to measure business performance, and elevating the insights that challenge past data sets with new data that fully informs.
When Data leadership has a strong bridge with Executive leadership, they can be some of the most influential change champions that can help bring the vision and goals into the heart and minds of the rest of the organization.
Bridge: Marketing + Sales
Once a Data leader understands where the business is driving, it’s time to forge bonds with Marketing and Sales — the departments closest to the revenue.
Revenue teams have so many tools and technologies to drive every phase of client acquisition, from demand generation to pipeline creation to client retention. What’s more, the amount of data being produced by these teams is astronomical. Not to mention they are increasingly being enamored by all that AI/ML can do to fuel their revenue operations. Just consider that more than 80% of marketing leaders integrate some form of AI into their online marketing activities (source) and more than half of high-performing sales organizations leverage AI (source).
Related Reading: The Hidden Value of Dark Data
We already know what happens when technology leadership is not aligned to business leadership… Shadow IT. If Data leadership is not careful, the same can happen to them, with heads of Revenue going around the Data leader to spin up new AI and data science capabilities.
Therefore, the bridge to Marketing and Sales is hugely important. With this bridge strong, Data leadership is in an optimal position to evolve from being viewed as a potential cost center to revenue generator… helping the company win new business and grow market share.
Bridge: Product Development Team
Every company these days is a technology company, with so many organizations racing to the market with their products and services. As such, the bridge between the Data and Product Development teams is hugely important. With this bridge fortified, Data leadership can help Product teams gain insight into things like…
New features and functionality to add to products
KPIs and data attributes that shed light on the progress, backlog and status of product development
Drive effective resource management and effectiveness
Accelerate speed to market and new feature releases
Incorporate voice of customer into the product lifecycle teams
While the bridge with Marketing and Sales will help Data leadership directly impact and steer growth, the Bridge with the Product team will allow the organization to reach its next level of customer experience and product stickiness as the highway system between tip of spear and product delivery will now integrate. All too often an organization receives a ton of voice of customer insight from their Revenue teams but if that insight is not integrated into what happens in the SDLC, you are missing a key piece of the puzzle to impact.
Your Bridges: Where to Build Next
When you think of your organization, and all the bridges that Data leadership can drive for you, where do you feel the first bridge needs to be built?
Remember, being a data-driven organization is not a decision that a business can make one day and then it becomes true. Rather, it’s about committing to a journey that heavily relies on synergy, collaboration, significant cross-functional cooperation, and shared vision.
The Data leader in your organization has never been more poised to reach across the aisle, build trust with peer leaders, and help the organization accelerate not only its data maturity, but impact that data can have on fueling revenue and growth.
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