Be the Switzerland of your organisation’s data function

Cyrus Facciano is the firm’s Data and Analytics Leader – Consulting.

Could you imagine a modern world without the treasure trove of data that organisations use every day? Around 90 per cent of all the data we’ve ever created didn’t exist a few years ago, as we continue to use information for – well – everything.

In terms of business uptake, there’s still room for improvement; though it seems the vast majority of organisations seem to understand the value of data to some extent.

PwC’s 2016 Global Data and Analytics Survey found that only 8 per cent of companies would call themselves “rarely data-driven”, while 53 per cent say they’re “somewhat” driven by it and 39 per cent consider themselves “highly data-driven”.

For many, the data function is alive and well. But who actually ‘owns’ it? Who has responsibility, authority and controls capacity? These are questions organisations will continue to ask themselves, but few will be able to answer today.

Ownership blip
In truth, most organisations have friction in the C-suite as to who owns the data function – and often to their detriment.

The reality is you could argue that most own it… or that no one does. The modern-day organisation has to be data-driven, so for one function to own it, you’re always going to get bias.

If the finance function owns it, there’s likely going to be a disconnect between capability and business need; if the CMO takes ownership, it probably won’t be fit for finance.

That’s why the role of the Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer or Head of Strategy is emerging: to create accountability and delegated responsibility around the data use and governance.

In many ways, they’re acting as the Switzerland of business data – a country that is traditionally viewed as independent and reluctant to rally behind one global power.

Central intelligence
By taking a lesson from the Swiss, organisations can create a data function that sits across the business and provides an impartial, functional lead that’s owned by the whole company.

Every function within the business needs capability, but there also needs to be a centralised function that owns governance, new ways of working, emerging technologies and processes, and leads the analytics function within the organisation.

However, Switzerland doesn’t cut itself off from the rest of the world nor dominate it, and neither should your data function.

With that in mind, when we look at the three data governance models, a hybrid structure might be a smart choice for many organisations.

  • Distributed: The organic style when and is disconnected, usually resulting in value attribution for analytics.
  • Centralised: A structure that is good for incubating analytics functionality where demand is quite minimal, but eventually queues will grow and the pipeline become restricted.
  • Hybrid: As the name suggests, a combination of the two structures to eke out the best of both.

Many organisation in New Zealand may not be ready to consider governance right now, though the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer might give them a glimpse into the very near future.

If your data governance structure more resembles Swiss cheese than Swiss ingenuity, create cohesion around the data function, assign responsibility and stay scalable in an ever-changing world.

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