A leader’s role in building data culture

Robin Bhowmik

Like our finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated during the budget speech on 1st Feb 2020, data has become the new oil in this VUCA world. The global big data industry is projected to grow to USD 247 billion by 2022 from the current USD 189 billion.

Robin Bhowmik

A new organisational culture is evolving with high dependence on data. This leads to a data culture, which is defined as an operating environment where the data can be applied to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of business whenever it is possible. 

Data and insights should be available across the organisation without the help of analysts or a data scientist to translate the data into business language. The availability of the data and insight help business users to take quick decisions and move further. Firstly, the organisation has to axe the culture of silos and build collaboration between teams.

Globally, those organisations who have developed a data culture show steady growth in their business. A McKinsey study found that such companies saw a six per cent growth in the first year and it rose up to nine per cent after five years.

Data-driven leaders

Building a data culture – or data-driven culture – needs investments of money, efforts and time. A definite strategy is the first step to transform an organisation into the data-driven company, followed by hiring the right talents and implementing technology. Including this with the key performance indicator (KPI) would also encourage the employees to take up the culture. But the most important element is the role of leaders.

A commitment of C-suite executive or board is essential, but this commitment must be transferred to the bottom – with an ongoing and regular conversation. Awareness about the significance of data among the leadership and its emphasis on the organisational structure would send a positive signal to the lower strata. For example, if the CEO is very adamant on data, the leaders below him/her would force the same on their juniors, and it would send ripples in the organisation. Thus, in vice-versa, all employees would stress on data to show their reporting managers.

All verticals in the organisation are now becoming data-dependent. For example, marketing as a core business data plays a vital role in the operation – from audience intelligence and targeting to campaign optimisations and personalisation to drive customer growth and retention. Also, HR is another organisational vertical with high dependence on data. Now all other businesses are also embracing data in their activities. The trickiest role of the leader here is to train the people i.e., the team members and the users. 

This means a conscious effort from leadership is mandatory to develop a data culture. The leaders need not be well-versed data scientists, but they should emphasise it in order to instil behaviour among the staff. For this, leaders should motivate employees by familiarizing them with the best practices in the industry as well as including data and insights in the meetings, presentations, speeches, and internal and external communications. Leaders attending data skill training would boost the confidence of employees to follow the same. Once the leaders start using the data in regular business, the entire organisation would naturally embrace this culture.

The crucial question here is, how to build such leadership?

Irrespective of the industry, data analysis skill is considered as one of the fundamental qualities of leaders. Hiring managers highlight this skill while searching for new leaders into organisations. A personal proactive approach — updating knowledge and competencies — is necessary to develop skills including data analysis skill. Everyone should undertake this, but leaders must do to remain relevant in the competitive world.

Towards skilled leaders

Upskilling is no more a taboo as the rapid digital transformation create new possibilities and challenges on a daily basis. Organisations encourage employees to undergo upskilling or reskilling in the respective fields. Some companies even conduct inhouse training for this purpose. 

As products of this millennium, data science, data analysis, big data etc., are in huge demand in the upskilling market. Professional training and certification in these fields ensure a jump in the career. No leader should shy to go for upskilling themselves and motivating their team members to take up skill training.

Many institutions provide courses and training in data for freshers as well as working professionals. Attending these courses are useful for the leaders to assure a consistent performance from their team, which, in turn, help the organisation to realise a data culture. As a result, a skilled leader himself/herself can comprehend the data by analysing it to prepare the insights for the day-to-day functioning of the organisation and improving the business. Similarly, finding the right talents for the data team could be effortless. Meetings and events, in which the executives and leaders attend, could be more focused and productive.

Data culture in BFSI

Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) witnessed the digital transformation making inroads to eliminate human intervention in many activities. ABCD – Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cloud Computing and Data – play a big role in the restructuring of the BFSI industry. Data and insights drive the BFSI sector as the companies handle various personal and account data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are highly dependent on data, and BFSI organisations develop many tools with the help of these new-age technologies.

For instance, all insurance companies have built chatbots to manage the customer relationship, which reduces human efforts. IoT devices, smart-devices are also driving data to banks. All these make us believe that highly skilled human intervention is indispensable in the BFSI industry. Human effort is highly required for data management including analysis and gleaning useful and actionable insights from it. Only a data-driven culture can enable such an environment, but for building it, there must be abled leaders.

In conclusion, building a data culture in the organisations is an amalgamation of right talents, cutting-edge technology and skilled leadership. Creating a shared mentality in the entire organisation is the foremost responsibility of the leaders with committed and conscious attempts. Manifesting leaders’ commitment in real terms, instead of just sermonizing would guarantee reciprocal behaviour from the employees. Moreover, the leaders, as well as the employees, should upskill/reskill themselves to remain relevant in the market.

Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of Robin Bhowmik, Chief Business Officer, Manipal Global Academy of BFSI. 


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