Using data has become the top priority for many CEOs, which can be hugely beneficial in achieving leadership buy-in. However, for many organisations this falls to the Chief Information Officer or Chief Data Officer, with the CEO taking a back seat in data leadership.
This is the mistake that prevents data from reaching its true potential. Data is now such a valuable asset that there has to be more collaboration between the CEO and those responsible for data use. The stakes are now so high that the CEO really has to be in the know – both aware of the potential transformations inherent in data use, and to ensure the organisation’s data literacy does not falter.
You need clear data leadership
On this note, the responsibility for data in an organisation is often left undefined. Companies that have appointed CDOs don’t have a common agreement on their CDO’s responsibilities.
39% of leaders surveyed said their CDO is responsible for data strategy and results. However, 37% instead assigned that responsibility to other members of the C-suite, and a further 24% don’t have anyone accountable for data use. This lack of ownership over data could trip you up further down the line. Your organisation could thus benefit from clearly defined data roles for everyone in the C-suite, with guidance from an appointed data leader and approval from the CEO.
You need a culture
A strong data culture is pivotal in ensuring your data strategy succeeds, and that starts from the top. The CEO should demonstrate data-driven decision making, ideally more than just words or drafting a mission statement. If people see the CEO taking on data leadership and driving the culture forward, they will follow. Now that we can access data insights, relying on gut instinct is no longer the best way to make decisions.
99% of firms surveyed recognised that they need to cultivate this data-driven culture, but only a third of those companies can say they succeeded. The best way to avoid this disconnect between intentions and implementation is with leadership buy-in, especially a motivated CEO.
CEOs don’t trust data
The problem is that CEO confidence in data is flagging. This affects their buy-in for data projects; 56% of CEOs showed concerns about data integrity, and don’t fully trust the data that they use for decisions. A further 36% feel they need to invest more in data quality.
More oversight of the data function can help with this. If a CEO is involved in the development of the data strategy and data governance processes, instead of simply signing off, this builds more natural trust in your systems.
This lack of trust can also be triggered because a CEO is heavily reliant on their gut instinct – especially if the data tells a different story to their gut. With leadership buy-in from the start, and demonstrating the value of data early, you can help your CEO adopt a more data-driven process.
How to get leadership buy-in
There are clear and compelling reasons that demonstrate the benefits of having a data-driven CEO, but what are some practical ways of achieving this?
1. Show them the money
Your CEO is always thinking about the bottom-line, so it’s essential to clearly clarify how data is monetised in your organisation. Even better, illustrate how data gives your organisation an edge over the competition. If you can, tell your CEO what to expect from a data project with cold, hard stats. Nothing will perk them up more than saying, “I’m going to make you 5% more profit by doing this.”
2. Foster their FOMO
If your data journey is just starting out, then some of this will take time. Four in five CEOs are concerned about disruptive companies in their market. What do all disruptive companies have in common? Data.
As such, you can play to your CEO’s fears and encourage leadership buy-in. Show them companies in the industry that are using data well, and highlight how their data use gives them an advantage over you.
3. Quick Wins
Quick wins are equally important. Prioritise the projects that are relatively inexpensive to implement and which will deliver value quickly. You need to justify your CEO’s investment and to prove what is possible. Internal communication is integral to this too; getting buy-in from every employee will be just as valuable in the long-term.
4. Plus additional benefits
Don’t forget about the added benefits. This includes improved data literacy, better customer service and more informed decision making. Depending on the project, every department can benefit, improving the organisation as a whole. If the CEO understands this, and it clearly matches their business goals, your data strategy will be much stronger going forward.
5. Get everyone involved
With the entire C-suite motivated and driving forward data use in your organisation, you’ll feel its transformative impact much more quickly. A board that is on-board (pun intended) with the data strategy can be the difference between meeting your goals, or falling short. Companies that are succeeding with data use often list their management’s involvement with data leadership as the key to their success.
Make it unique to each CEO
Data leadership is essential to your data function. CEOs need to understand that data is no longer the responsibility of just the CDO or CIO – or anyone else in the C-suite. They need to step up and have ultimate oversight of their organisation’s data use.
Some will be driven by a fear of competition, or of being left behind, while others might be completely profit-driven. You can work out what drives your CEO, and align your data use to that. By doing this, your data will have a tangible impact on your organisation – and your CEO will want to do even more with data.