In 2018, the entire C-suite must be data-savvy.

Once considered the responsibility of chief information or chief data officers, data is now permeating the entire organisation and is becoming a shared responsibility across the C-suite. That means any C-level title (CXO) must learn to understand all facets of data — what data currently exists, what data they can get, how to organise it and, most importantly, how to put the data to use to grow their businesses.

Why is data so important to the growth of the business? Because it’s the foundation on which the entire business is built. Without an accurate, structured, shared set of data across the organisation, decisions will continue to be made in silos and valuable resources will be wasted working with information that is outdated or simply incorrect. 

In 2018, one of the first steps that should be taken is to implement some sort of master data strategy. The master data process helps cleanse and organise data to create a single source of truth from which businesses can make more accurate decisions, boost efficiency, improve customer service and identify new opportunities. This will make the CXO’s biggest headaches — lost revenue, lost customers, legal woes, employee frustration — slowly become a thing of the past. But the longer you wait to do this, the worse it will become. The rapid growth of data through the sheer volume of software apps, heightened M&An activity, programmatic marketing, the Internet of things and globalisation are all motivations for any executive to embrace a master data strategy.

Here are five steps to success through data in 2018 for CXOs.

1. Establish data governance policies. Data governance is defined as the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of the data employed by an enterprise. A sound data governance programme includes a governing body or council, a defined set of procedures and a plan to execute those procedures.

2. Identify an owner. Building the foundation for a master data programme requires collaboration and communication from multiple teams, beginning with the executive in charge of data management and governance. This could be a chief information officer, chief data officer or even a chief marketing or financial officer. If no one in your company “owns” data, a first step could be to appoint a data owner or steward. While governance is about the rules, stewardship is about enforcement of the rules. You need both to succeed.

3. Define the data. It’s important that all departments are defining data the same way. For instance, naming conventions need to be set and decisions should be made about how to treat duplicate records. This is critical in making sure all departments are working from the same datasets and most accurate information. In addition, the core attributes should be defined to create the ultimate customer record. This ultimate record is the single source of the truth leveraged across all users in the business and therefore helps drive compelling customer experiences since every user is working from the same core record.

4. Map it out. Work with the appointed data steward to identify all the stakeholders who need to use the data and understand how they will use it to enhance the customer experience. Data is the underlying connection among all the interactions across your company that make up the customer’s experience, so this is crucial.

5. Start small and scale. A master data programme does not have to be all or nothing. If you don’t have the resources to implement a complete master data programme, start small. Even simply cleansing your CRM data and infusing it with a trusted third-party data source is a step in the right direction. This will at least build a foundation of accurate and structured data on which you can build more robust programmes in the future.

Data is no longer just the responsibility of somebody in the tech organisation. Every CXO needs to know the data strategy for their company. In a fast-paced digital environment, it’s important to optimise every dollar that goes into your organisation. Data can help you to maximise those dollars by informing better decision-making and better alignment across the business, ultimately leading to faster growth in the new year.


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