Most business leaders recognize the value of using data and analytics to help the organization respond quickly to industry shifts and changing customer needs. Indeed, 59% of executives surveyed by McKinsey & Company and Teradata say they consider Big Data and analytics either a “Top Five issue” or the single most important way for their organizations to obtain a competitive advantage.

Yet making the cultural transformation to a data-driven organization remains a sizeable hurdle for many organizations. Fifty-one percent of executives polled in the same McKinsey/Teradata study say that adapting to and refining a data-driven strategy is the single biggest cultural barrier they face.

Without questions, one of the top hurdles that many companies face is getting senior executives comfortable with using analytical tools and dashboards to support their decision-making. A good starting point for CIOs to lay the groundwork for this education even before acquainting senior management with the use of analytical tools is by helping them to understand how analytical results are obtained.

Demonstrating how analytics can be applied to a common business challenge such as the factors behind a recent drop in customer satisfaction or market factors that impacted product revenue can help senior executives to better understand the data types that go into calculating such results.

Meanwhile, data visualization tools can tell a story behind data much better than statistics can. A business unit leader is much more likely to remember a story than they would be to recall a graph or a spreadsheet. Visualization tools such as heat maps, timelines, and interactive charts can strengthen engagement for end users and help executives to better recognize and understand correlations between data sets.

CIOs can further educate executives on the benefits of data-driven decision-making by sharing a case study from one of the company’s business units or from another company in the market that illustrates how the insights drawn from analyzing customer, market, or business trends have enabled the company’s leadership to act quickly on an emerging issue or to respond to a surfacing market opportunity ahead of competitors.

The use of Big Data and analytics is able to provide organizational leaders real-time insights into consumer behavior and changes in business activity with greater precision. Decision-making no longer needs to be dependent on hunches and guesswork.

As senior management deepens its understanding about the potential that Big Data and analytics can deliver, CIOs can share the value that can be gained from recruiting data scientists who are able to develop advanced data models and to establish causality between data sets and trends that might otherwise be too difficult for others to extrapolate.

CIOs that build great relationships with the C-suite and educate executives on the various benefits that Big Data and analytics can provide to the organization can foster the elements that are required to become a data-driven organization.

“When you look at companies that are successfully leveraging data for business impact, you see companies where the C-suite has set high aspirations and make key investments in people, processes, and technologies,” said Brad Brown, a Senior Partner in McKinsey & Company’s Big Data and Digital Practice in an HMG Strategy Transformational CIO blog post. “The companies that have been less successful tend to be companies where there hasn’t been a top-down push and approach.”

Key Takeaways

  • A good starting point for CIOs to educate the C-Suite on the benefits of Big Data and analytics is by helping them to understand how analytical results are obtained.
  • Data visualization tools can tell a story behind data much better than statistics can.
  • Companies that are successfully leveraging data for business impact have a C-suite that truly understands how data analysis can deliver quantum leaps in performance and makes key investments in people, processes, and technologies.