Getting Buy-In From the Top for Your Data Strategy

Getting Buy-In From the Top for Your Data Strategy

Getting Buy-In From the Top for Your Data Strategy

Juan Gorricho

Juan Gorricho

Juan F. Gorricho is currently group executive, data & analytics, global product innovation at TSYS.

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Let's face it — people love to talk about the cool side and all the (apparent) success stories about data and analytics. But rarely are there hard and real conversations about what it takes to be successful in this space.

Getting executives on board

Earlier this year, I discussed the three components necessary in a company's data and analytics journey. While all are equally important, I've noticed success in data and analytics heavily depends on the company culture and executive leadership. The good news is that these elements are largely within the sphere of influence and control of the executive team. The not-so-good news is that executive sponsorship is often taken for granted, possibly because of all the noise around data and analytics. But it makes a significant difference in enabling successful data and analytics initiatives.

Data leaders need to proactively and relentlessly work to ensure that sponsorship and buy-in is really there in support of data and analytics as a strategic initiative. Put simply, it's one thing to talk about data and analytics; it's another to actually invest the right resources in putting together solutions that create business value.

4 Crucial Areas of Focus for Executives: 1. Prioritize strategic alignment. 2. Lead by example. 3. Educate. Educate. Educate. 4. Get ahead of c-suite dynamics.

To many people, this is an obvious statement — after all, what strategic initiative doesn't require executive sponsorship to be successful? However, data and analytics have a few nuances that don’t make it as obvious.

First, data and analytics, in many cases, are perceived as technical initiatives as opposed to business ones. This perception immediately puts them at the same level as initiatives driven by IT and owned by the chief information officer. However, if business teams don't own and embrace data and analytics, the odds of success will be much lower. The only way through which data and analytics create long-term, sustainable value is by having business teams implement and use them. Without that, data and analytics end up being either a bunch of actionless fun facts or one-hit wonders that are not sustainable or scalable.

Second, eventually companies will need to make data and analytics core competencies. The only way this will happen is if there is a cultural shift, making the whole company data driven at all levels. And in order for such a shift to happen, executives in the organization must lead the way.

Enablers of executive sponsorship

The ultimate goal, of course, should be for all c-level executives and the board of directors to be fully on board with the data and analytics journey. This is, many times, easier said than done, but cannot be taken for granted. After all, this journey requires change, and all forms of change have the potential to generate resistance. Furthermore, this requires, as mentioned above, a cultural shift. And, if anything, those are the harder shifts for companies to make.

But there is a way to get started. Below are four crucial areas of focus for executives.

  1. Prioritize strategic alignment. There are two dimensions to strategic alignment. In his fantastic book, "Infonomics," Doug Laney, research vice president and analyst with Gartner, highlights the difference strategic alignment makes in successful enterprise information management programs. The first part, as Laney points out, comes down to ensuring business and IT leaders are on the same page in terms of strategies, priorities and goals. The other dimension of strategic alignment, he says, focuses on ensuring that there is a clear and explicit connection between corporate goals and objectives set by the CEO and the role enterprise information management plays in achieving those goals.

  2. Lead by example. There are plenty of opportunities to change the way executives manage business processes, moving into data-driven management and decision making. For example, TSYS' CIO Patricia Watson has driven the use of actual financial, labor utilization and system performance data to prioritize new investments. This is low-hanging fruit that will ensure teams under C-level executives and other division leaders align themselves.

  3. Educate. Educate. Educate. The CEO and the data leader (perhaps the chief data officer, if one exists), should make a conscious effort to educate their peers in what it means to be a data company. This understanding must expand beyond using buzzwords. It entails actually ensuring business leaders understand that data and analytics will only be valuable if they own creating and adopting the solutions. This means that they need to clearly partner with data and analytics organizations to ensure the right solutions are being delivered at the right time.

  4. Get ahead of C-suite dynamics. This Harvard Business Review article points out that when companies embark on data and analytics journeys, C-suite dynamics change. These new dynamics need to be actively managed by the CEO, in partnership with the data and analytics leader, to ensure resistance to change is minimized. It's essential that the CEO and CDO are proactive about this, clearly articulating the value of being data driven and of embracing data and analytics as a core competency.

Where does this leave us?

The number and size of opportunities in data and analytics will only continue to grow, particularly as digitalization increases the speed and volume at which data is created. Executive leaders should understand what it means to be a data and analytics company, beyond simply using the words to please the market. It is a responsibility that cannot be delegated, as this type of cultural change will only happen if executive leaders are key stakeholders in this journey.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

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Juan Gorricho

Juan F. Gorricho is currently group executive, data & analytics, global product innovation at TSYS. In this role, Gorricho leads the development and implementation of TSYS data and analytics strategy aimed at enhancing existing, and developing new data products for TSYS clients.

Prior to this role, he was chief data and analytics officer for Partners Federal Credit Union, where he led the development and execution of Partners' data strategy. Gorricho has more than 15 years of experience in the data and analytics space and frequently speaks at data and analytics-related conferences.

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