To lead cultural change around data within your enterprise, it’s critical to secure C-suite support for your data strategy. Those at the top should embrace the idea that data is not only beneficial to operations but also core to the company’s overall success.
As countless corporations expand their insight capabilities, little doubt remains about the enterprise opportunities data holds. Still, research by Forrester Consulting shows that roughly half of data professionals feel their C-suite does not support their data and analytics strategies. While it’s likely that your leadership is excited about the power of data, converting that excitement into meaningful investments may require some work.
1. Learning how to talk the talk
The first step toward getting leadership on board is learning how to speak their language. When you’re the data expert, it’s easy to get lost in the details and excitement surrounding a project — but save the program specifics and jargon for your team. Your C-suite cares about cost savings, driving revenue and productivity, avoiding risk, and reducing complexity. When presenting your data strategy to leadership, it’s crucial to highlight what’s in it for them.
Sreeram Potukuchi, Director of Enterprise Data at Republic Services, has used this approach to deliver value to his own executives — with an awareness not to place his enthusiasm for technology above the business needs.
“[I don’t use] the jazzy words like artificial intelligence and machine learning, because a Vice President of Marketing doesn’t really care whether it’s AI or ML or access database,” Sreeram says.
2. Advocating for data literacy
Data literacy can play a role in building C-suite support and trust — so it’s important to be transparent about the intended use and impact of your data. In an interview with CIO Digital Magazine, U.S. Data and Analytics Leader at KPMG, Brad Fisher, suggests that the complexity of data can lead to a lack of support among executives.
“We need to take [data and analytics] out of the ‘black box’ to encourage greater understanding about its use and purpose to help organizations trust the new insights it can bring,” he says.
Transparency and communication will also play a role in advocating for proper resources. Often your leadership may not be aware of the headcount, budget, and time certain projects require — be clear about the scale of each initiative.
3. Leveraging metrics
If you struggle to secure meaningful investments, it’s helpful to gather tangible information to illustrate the need. If you’re able to determine achieved or projected business value calculations, you can use that data to quantify revenue increases or cost reductions. You can also lean on external input from consultants to advocate for additional resources.
It can be equally as helpful to showcase the negative impacts of not investing in certain initiatives, even if you have to lean on anecdotes.
For example, you could highlight the many risks of poor data quality as a way to advocate for more resources in governance. By demonstrating potential pitfalls — security risks, lost time, improper reporting, etc. — you can open up leadership’s eyes to a present need.
4. Learning from leaders like you
No one understands the challenges of securing C-suite support quite like data strategy leaders themselves — so there’s no better place to benchmark best practices than in a community of industry peers.
If leadership support is something you lack you can always turn to LinkedIn to connect with other enterprise data professionals by following #enterprisedatastrategy, #chiefdataofficer, among other topics.
Building a network of support on your own can be time-consuming so it can be most helpful to join a screened community of leaders like you, such as the Data Board.
Leading enterprise data strategy is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. The people who can best help you are fellow leaders running programs like yours.
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