How can data leaders transform their organizations in 2022?
As we head into 2022 and reflect on the year behind us, one thing is clear: The ongoing pandemic has continued to force organizations to accelerate their digital business initiatives. CDOs and other data leaders are at the forefront of this data revolution, and their roles have taken on added significance (not to mention responsibilities) over the last few years.
There may be challenges ahead, but there’s no denying that it’s an exciting time to be a data leader.
That was one of the themes at the virtual Women in Data Leaders’ Global Summit, held in November. Covering everything from monetizing data governance to the ethical use of AI/ML, the summit was equal parts thought-provoking and inspirational.
If you were unable to attend, no worries—we’ve curated the most powerful themes and quotes from the summit.
Here are three ways CDOs and other data leaders can make a big impact in 2022.
Align your data strategy to the business strategy
There was a time when data was only critical for a few select business units, including accounting or payroll. Today it’s table-stakes across the organization—and leveraging data-driven insights to gain a competitive advantage, drive revenue, and better understand customers increasingly falls under the mandate of the CDO.
In her keynote address, Mastercard CDO JoAnn Stonier said:
“Capturing the right data to understand how a business is improving is the first step to improving products and solutions. If your organization is still working on data strategies, this is also important in figuring out how is your organization is going to be efficient, how is it going to manage this problem with the supply chain and meet the expectations of the customer. So, for every data leader—how is data a key element of your business or business strategy?”
Tableau CDO Wendy Turner-Williams explained how she is using data to complement her organization’s strategic efforts:
“I want to actually create a data culture that is really focused on the empowerment of the business strategy. What I’ve seen at multiple companies through my career, there’s a lot of focus on the technology [and] on the word data, but the data itself tends to get lost. I’m working to align our data strategies with our business strategies and create the right partnerships with the business team so that we can understand what their strategy is today, and what it plans to be tomorrow and a year from now… we’re actively working and informing those business strategies in a way that actually makes us more dialed in to the market or with our own operational improvements.”
In 2022, there is no question that data should be treated as a business asset.
And for data leaders seeking to derive business value from data but struggling with building a reliable and repeatable way to generate powerful insights… data governance just may be the answer.
Connect data management and data governance to the success of the business
Historically, CDOs have been tasked with adopting a defensive data strategy, focusing on compliance and mitigating risk. In 2021, organizations started to expect more offensive strategies from data leaders, with an increased focus on data-driven revenue opportunities.
In the Monetizing Data Governance panel, Regional Data Lead for Retail Credit Decision Engine at HSBC Usri Roy Chaudhury explained why data governance programs are critical:
“Governance is the fundamental constitution for anybody who wants to convert data from a junk drawer state to a valued asset that can generate revenue. It is up to the business and the senior management to understand the value of data and the value of governed data.”
She shared a fictional example of two competing beauty shops to show how organizations can use data governance practices to serve up engaging and personalized experiences for customers.
Picture “Company A”. Company A carefully manages and governs its data. Key data points like date of purchase and product type are consistently and accurately captured in its customer database.
With high-quality consumer data at its fingertips, “Company A” can launch personalized campaigns based on the customer’s purchasing behavior and promote their offer with free products or samples that align with their purchasing history. When Company A launches a new lavender-scented soap, they can offer up a free lavender hand cream to consumers with their purchase because the data is telling them they like lavender.
“Company B” sells similar beauty products and collects customer data but doesn’t have the same data management or data governance processes in place. Purchase dates are blank and product names are misspelled or not attributed to the right product. When it comes time to launch a new campaign, their data doesn’t accurately reflect the purchasing patterns of their customers. So rather than sending a “lavender” loving customer lavender soap, they get “orange-scented” soap instead.
Chaudhury stressed the importance of using examples like this to make the case to executives to invest in data management and data governance:
“If a simple example can be translated to senior management and an analyst, we can change the culture. The culture has to be changed top-down and bottom-up.”
In the Data Assets are Business Assets: How to Elevate Your Data Role in the Business panel, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond CDO Cathy Doss offered this advice for data leaders who are struggling to get buy-in from senior management:
“Instead of using the words ‘data management,’ you can make it more action-oriented. ‘If we’re managing data, this is what happens.’ I have gotten much more adoption by staying away from that keyword ‘data management.”
Scotiabank VP & CDO of International Banking at Scotiabank Mercedes Speer echoed her sentiment:
“Partnering with the business in the data office is key to our success. Business needs to know why we’re doing this, and the benefits around data. How does data help you grow your organization and create the monetary aspect of it? … If you approach it from the technical aspect, you lose your business partners.”
Thanks to diligent data leaders like Chaudhury, Doss, and Speer, business leaders are starting to understand the importance of data and analytics in driving business initiatives.
But one challenge remains—what if data consumers in the business lack the skills to interpret and draw insights from the data presented?
Encourage data literacy across the organization with education and training initiatives
Nearly every speaker and panelist at the Women in Data Leaders’ Global Summit spoke about promoting data literacy at their organizations as a critical step in building a data-driven culture.
In fact, in Gartner’s Annual Chief Data Officer Survey, poor data literacy was selected as the second-biggest internal roadblock to the success of the CDO’s office. It’s clear that increasing organization-wide data literacy is a key concern for data leaders going into 2022.
In the Using Data to Drive Innovation and Business Transformation panel, Meltem Kilicoglu, Global Head of Data Strategy, Governance and Data Sciences at Johnson and Johnson explained how she and her team empower business users to work with data.
In addition to facilitating “Data 101” training for the entire organization, she also values hands-on experience:
“We have to give opportunities for people to have hands-on experience… How do you ensure that technical skills and domain skills come hand in hand? This is where I talk about tiger team assignments. When we find a use case, can we put subject matter experts and people with technical expertise – data scientists, data analysts, visualization people – together into a team to help solve a problem?”
In a recent CDO magazine interview, Diane Schmidt, Head of Enterprise Data Governance at LSEG, said:
“One measure we’re working on right now is understanding data literacy. And how well people do and don’t understand data management and their roles. We’re beginning to assess and understand literacy rates and conformance… because ultimately there is a direct correlation to that framework as well as maturity and the business benefits.”
In her keynote address, JoAnn Stonier emphasized the importance of data literacy across the organization:
“Data literacy is a key baseline skill for everyone. We’re finding that data and analytic skills are necessary for nearly every job. Every single part of our organization uses data in different ways, and we have to train everyone to think through how they’re using data.”
The democratization of data will enable organizations to work smarter, not harder.
The future is data-driven
There are countless opportunities for data leaders to make an impact in 2022, from driving business growth through strategic data initiatives, connecting data management and data governance to key business outcomes, and promoting data literacy across the enterprise.
We’ll say it again—it’s an exciting time to be a data leader.
Barbara Cohn, CDO at Colorado Department of Transportation and Senior Consultant at Xentity Corp put it beautifully:
“How lucky we are to be operating in this exciting time! In the 21st century… we are operating in an ever-changing data landscape.
New data sources are emerging all the time, and advanced technologies are proving the capability to discover, access, utilize, and analyze data in ways never before possible…
We’re unlocking the data from the siloes, we’re making visible what has historically been invisible… We have to tell the stories.”
What stories will you tell in 2022?