We’re excited to announce Data-Driven Leaders – a podcast from Gensquared…
The concept of data-driven culture is not a novelty, and companies from around the globe are looking for ways to make the most out of it, but not all of them can deal with the volume of generated data.
That’s why they need experts to help them approach data adequately using the right tools and processes.
In this episode of the Data-Driven Leaders podcast…
In today’s episode of Data-Driven Leaders, our host Christina O’Reilly chats with Cadillac Fairview’s SVP & CIO, Katia Saenko. Aside from introducing the award-winning app ‘LiVE by CF’, Katia and Christina also discuss the importance of agility, alignment, and data literacy for a healthy data-driven culture.
*Show notes and key insights below…
Listen to Episode 3: How to Build a Data-Driven Culture
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How to Build a Data-Driven Culture: Episode 3
⚡ Agility is the number-one quality required of a leader in the data-driven space. Companies need to have agile leaders, especially those whose businesses revolve around data and technology (that is, pretty much every company in the world). However, as Katia says, the balance between agility and governance is more important. After all, they all need to follow a specific set of regulations to conduct business.
”For example, for the company I work for, personal data is very important and other companies are following SOX, FD, GDPR, et cetera, so we have to make sure that the data is secure, and we can provide certain guarantees that we are following those types of regulations. At the same time, if we think about the implementation of the right processes, agility is welcome.”
⚡ Alignment between different parts of your organization is critical. In 2020, Cadillac Fairview launched an app called LiVE by CF. It is a customer-centric application, which is unusual considering that Cadillac Fairview is a property operator. Even though it’s been nearly two years since the app’s release, the CF team still focuses on making sure everyone knows the app’s purpose.
”I need to establish that level of alignment with our operations teams which run the malls and ensure that the people who are within the mall and those who are servicing the mall have an idea of how this application works because that could impact how they need to respond to the customers.
For example, if you’re thinking about the service desk area in the mall, they need to be knowledgeable about the application and play within the journey that we have created within the digital path. That was very new. So that was a bit of a change management-type of experience for us. But I guess the biggest alignment was around going beyond just the tenants, going to the customer and connecting with them, and explaining all of that data to help them navigate the mall.”
⚡ We need more women in the data space. Although the tech space is male-dominated, female experts are becoming more visible.
”We tend to bring some of those soft skills to the table, in addition to the deep technical knowledge. So aligning the organization [with] the idea of data (which is sometimes not readily acceptable), what is the return on investment on data, and why is it practical and pragmatic? All of those questions do require soft skills.
I think that’s one of the opportunities that women have noticed and have started moving in that direction.”
Episode 3 Highlights
Why do we still struggle with changing the organizational structure to support data culture?
”Because it’s not a trivial topic. It’s a change, and change takes time. There is a lot of complexity with data. And if we look at any other major technology transformation that has happened over the last 20 years, there have been a number of technologists. All those technologists took time to settle in, and the practices and skills emerged as a result.
So, for example, if we look at early ERP implementations, it took about 20 years for everything to become more of a standard and run-of-the-mill type of process. With data, the technology is evolving, and there are so many players in that market. [Still,] there is a level of uncertainty and change.
In terms of skills, multiple skills are required to make sure that these types of implementations and sustainment of the data-related initiatives are successful.”
Introducing LiVE by CF, an award-winning app
”It’s more of a Greenfield implementation. It’s not new for us. We did have a previous version of the application, but it was not that complex. So, with the new implementation, the complexity is significantly greater.
We are looking at the personalization of that information and making sure that the experience speaks to the customer when they’re using the app. And all of that started with the customer journey and understanding the major pain points for our customers, which is unusual for a property operator.
We think about the end consumer, but not as much as our immediate customers, retailers, and tenants who rent our properties. So, in this case, we went one level further, and we connected with the actual customers at the properties. We also leveraged our relationships with Canadian retailers to unite them around that idea of the customer journey.
This was important during COVID because it had a tremendously negative impact on physical retail. And we were in the perfect position to help retailers rebound after COVID by creating more of that unified shoppable mall-type of experience where it’s a bit like when everybody shopped online during COVID.
So now, our customers are able to walk into the mall. They’re able to find what they’re looking for on their phone. […] And also, they can create a walkable map of the mall that will efficiently guide them through that journey.
And if they want to avoid the crowds, [it is] also very relevant for everybody conscious about staying safe during this time of COVID; we created this feature that allows them to avoid real-life traffic within the mall.
[…] Data played a huge role in this. If you can imagine that, just the way we had to collect all of the product information, traffic information within the mall; all of that had to be combined to create that easy and light experience for the customer.”
Soft skills are required in the data space
”Skills like team building, creative thinking, emotional intelligence, and a customer-focused mindset are important for any enterprise-wide initiative.
And data-related initiatives are typically enterprise-wide. They touch pretty much every line of business. They touch every department within the organization, and complexity is typically high. So from that perspective, to be able to be efficient in implementing those types of projects, these skills are a must-have. Otherwise, nobody is going to progress.
[…] Soft skills across the organization — especially within the data center of excellence, the data leader team — allow them to build that alignment with the rest of the organization and bring everybody on the journey. […] There are a lot of unknowns and lots of data jargon, complexity, technology, and relationship-wise. So soft skills help to mitigate some of those challenges.”
How to improve data literacy
”It’s an evolution. My preferred approach is to start in a small and tangible way. For example, at this moment at CF, we are working very closely with our finance department and creating a lot of value on the financial data for those teams.
Finance is going through a transformation, which helps them move through that process faster and more efficiently. So it’s important to find the business leaders (within the organization) who are interested in benefiting from the data. And then, after they are onboarded and their teams know how to leverage the tools and have the data literacy, it’s much easier to start marketing it to the rest of the organization.”
About Our Guest: Katia Saenko
💡What she does: Katia is the SVP & CIO at Cadillac Fairview.
💡Noteworthy: Katia is a seasoned technology executive, leading businesses through multiple digital and core technology transformations.
💡Company: Cadillac Fairview
💡Where to find Katia: LinkedIn