Resilient business hinges on strong data maturity

Few businesses have come through the pandemic unaffected

Nearly four in ten global CEOs have reported at least short-term disruption, while 21% feel their industry has changed for the worse. But many organisations have seen steady performance and even rising fortunes, especially the likes of Amazon, Facebook, and Google — with Alphabet alone breaking over $200 billion in worldwide revenue last year for the first time. 

How can other companies match the success of these “masters of big data”? The solution lies in enhancing their data maturity. This will not only help future-proof firms against economic shocks, but by implementing the core pillars of data maturity — data-centric culture, skilled data-savvy staff, and adequate, tech investment — it will fuel higher efficiency along the way.  

Cultivating a data-centric culture 

Companies are pivoting in the right direction. Around half (47%) of the CEOs who have faced upheaval amid COVID-19 recognise the need to improve their technology setups. Encouragingly, they also understand maximising data application is vital; with 22% citing data-enabled product and service development as essential to secure ongoing growth. 

While this shift is positive, it doesn’t go far enough. To level up maturity, a data-centric culture should be embedded across the board, rather than in isolated pockets. Alongside fixing their own sights on more effective use, senior leaders must take steps to establish data as a key asset for the entire organisation by placing it at the heart of their business models.   

For instance, appointing a Chief Data Officer (CDO) will help ensure good data management is an integral part of top-down strategy; meaning every area of the business is striving for better data-fuelled activity and decision making, not just the IT department. According to Gartner, creating stronger connections between data leaders and the rest of the C-suite increases their ability to prove ROI by 1.7 times and the likelihood they will deliver faster digital transformation by 2.3 times. 

Actively building people power 

Once firms have mapped a vision for dialling up maturity, the next priority is checking whether their workforce is equipped to execute it. By now, limited data knowhow is a well-known issue; with data science and analytical abilities in increasingly short supply for years, and still among the most in-demand skills. 

There is, however, growing appreciation that the path to tackling talent voids doesn’t lie solely with hiring. By putting more emphasis on upskilling workers, forward-looking organisations are reaping the rewards of enhanced capabilities and reduced data efficiency obstacles. 

As shown by Deloitte research, 36% of those who have re-trained and upskilled employees boast advanced or master levels of maturity. Combined with the finding that each percentage point of elevated maturity brings around 6.7% in extra revenue, it’s clear there are multiple long-term gains from investing in existing staff. 

Laying the right tech foundations 

Fundamental technological infrastructure does, of course, also have its role to play. Kingpins such as Amazon have built their empires on practical solutions, especially cloud-based tools that make it simpler and quicker to merge, store, and query massive stores of information. Before companies can use the latest breed of intelligent platforms, they need to begin with a complete audit of their data — structured and unstructured.   

Every area of the organisation should be involved in constructing pipelines to process data from any source and translate it into accurate insight that’s easily accessible. Only when they have their crucial base mechanics in place and identified a single source of truth, can they start making smarter choices that are grounded in unified data, and grow their maturity by leveraging sophisticated tech. 

Striving to constantly raise the bar   

Companies prepared to continually fine tune their operations will be equipped to navigate emerging challenges, particularly if they keep directing resources at refining and evolving their data-wielding toolkit. 

As IT budgets expand, businesses will have more scope to do so; with global spending on track to hit $4.4 trillion in 2022. But ensuring lasting success will depend on using their resources wisely. The sturdiest mix requires equal investment in skills development and hard IT elements, including the hardware and software they need to keep getting the most from data.  

Organisations that have people, tech, culture, processes, and data coordination essentials covered can turn their attention to maintaining an innovative edge with automation. For instance, streamlining labour-intensive tasks can enable employees to spend more on tapping insights to increase value and drive performance. McKinsey recently found that 27% of companies using artificial intelligence can tie at least 5% of their earnings to advanced tech. Going a level up, layering in predictive analytics can improve flexibility by identifying the next best move for companies in line with current trends, economic conditions, and business goals. 

Mastering each pillar of maturity is therefore mission critical. This lesson hasn’t just been proved by leading players such as Google and Amazon, but also the considerably accelerated pace of digitalisation. Companies hoping to keep thriving must frame their culture around data-driven action, empower employees to wield data, build comprehensive tech infrastructure and, most importantly, commit to honing their abilities and tools for maximum agility. 

About the Author

Dany Eid, Director of North America at Adverity. Working in a hybrid and flexible model doesn’t mean we don’t have offices, it just means we treat themas places to meet and collaborate; we work where we are most productive. We keep the Adverity spiritalive in our regular online sessions, in-person after-work events, and off-site gatherings.