There is a science and an art to big data and the one that masters both emerges the winner
WE live in a data driven environment. The amount of data around us is only expected to grow tenfold in the next few years. Capturing data-related opportunities to improve revenues, boost productivity, and sometimes create entirely new businesses puts new demands on companies—requiring not only new talent and investments in information infrastructure but also significant changes in the mind-sets of the leadership. What kind of leadership skills does it take to harness the power of data for driving a company’s growth?
There is no doubt that corporate leaders need to look at evolving themselves in tune to a more big data driven world. It is the same difference between the skill sets required to drive an e-commerce company vis-a-vis a traditional retail business. While both may be and, generally are, data driven, the vastness of data and velocity of change needed in an online world need the skill sets to be taken to a new level. However, this may not always call for a reconfiguration of the C-Suite to accommodate the new Chief “XYZ”. One also needs to look within to add skills in order to be able to drive business with data intelligence. The traits below are based on my observation of leaders who have shown the desire and hunger to lead in a data driven world.
As more data is now available for us to analyse and deduce business decisions from, leaders use various tools and technologies to tap this information. Asking the right questions and guiding the teams to weed through the vast data to provide relevant information requires an analytical attitude. Big data solutions eventually need big data leadership.
Bold business decisions
How many times have we seen management teams sitting on a bucket load of information and not making a decision? Ongoing intelligence streaming from data analysis of course is only the first step towards it being able to impact business. The only way this can happen is if the management is ready to react to what they read, when they read it.
Communication and cooperation
Impact of big data will be across the organisation and not just the technology and marketing teams. It is even more critical for teams working together to cooperate in a data driven environment since the whole value chain needs to move collectively.
Data driven decisions
Gut based decisions need to be replaced by data driven decisions. Creating a successful data driven culture also requires the right kind of infrastructure to support it. A good internal coordination ensures that the top management is fed with the right kind of analysis in real time to be able to make intelligent business decisions.
Repeatability, reliability and scalability will only come from having a process oriented culture and leadership style to complement the data driven mind-set. A very important aspect for a leader to design and execute a flawless operational process through the organisation is to ensure things happen, when they happen. A true leader in a big data environment thrives on information which needs a much deeper level of engagement with the real touch points which add up to this very data.
Flexible decision making
While processes drive consistency and repeatability, they also have a downside of sometimes being unable to react to a changing business environment. While the organisation runs on processes, a true data driven leader needs to look at both micro data points from within the organisation and macro ones from outside to make the best business decision. It’s this flexibility that is also needed to drive growth and innovation.
Even if a business is focused on one particular market, the management needs to have a global perspective of how far the growth can be achieved via implementing data driven decisions. One may think that a certain business line has a specific geography or application but then a new insight emerges which makes you go back to the drawing board and expand your horizons to a more global level.
Hungry for new growth
All top management are keen to grow the company across functions but to really succeed in a world backed by data intelligence one needs to be hungrier to grow than what is considered normal. The passion to explore new opportunities backed by real insight is what drives futuristic growth for a company.
There are uncountable examples of how the most successful businesses are driven by highly innovative decision making by the top management. Adding a layer of data increases the necessity for the C-Level to think out of the box.
Jack of all trades
An obvious deduction from all of the above would definitely be that the person or more likely the people at the helm of decision making basis data intelligence need to be multi-dimensional in their interpretation and application of big data intelligence.
Leaders with a background or understanding of multiple functional roles in an organisation do better since they are able to help different parts of organisation to change according to trends indicated by data. Hence, the skill set required to be an effective corporate leader is evolving with the involvement of big data and its impact on decision making. They need an eye to catch trends and act on them swiftly. These trends can impact any part of the business process across functions so a deeper understanding of all functions is essential along with a passion for innovation-led growth.
While on a larger level leadership in a big data world relies on a more scientific ability to gain insight from deduced patterns represented by data, on the other hand the same needs to be applied to real market insight and innovation. There is a science and an art to big data and the one that masters both usually emerges on the top.
By Vinish Kathuria
The author is chief operating officer of Digital Quotient