Optimising financial processes

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Data: Better to Answer ONE Business Question Right . . . .

Debates amongst data experts are raging.

You hear that “data is our most important business asset”.

I thought it was people?

Maybe it depends . . .

An interesting and relevant article from Randy Bean and Allison Sagraves, asks “Is It Time To Reinvent the Chief Data Officer Role?”.


Apparently, 82.6% of companies report having a CDO/CDAO. 

I often think it is useful to think about other key CxO roles. What do we expect from the “Chief People Officer” or CHRO? And what do we not ask them to do?

I don’t think we would define the mandate for a CHRO as simply “get the best out of our people”, as that would give everyone else in the business, including all other leaders, the excuse to abdicate their responsibilities. I think there is a strong corollary for the CDO here! Anyway, I feel a webcast coming on about this 😉

Randy and Allison’s nuanced commentary is very important.

I live in hope that their prediction will come to pass soon – “the industry is nearing an inflection point, and organizations need to become more effective in using data, supplement intuition and experience, and make informed business decisions quickly and confidently”.

What’s not to like about that?

But the narrative that jumped off the page (the screen, but you know what I mean) was . . .

“Better to answer a single business question right with a little bit of data than to create a vast data repository without addressing a single business question correctly”.

This absolutely summarises the challenge of much of the current techno-focused approach to data, smart data architectures and modern data strategies.

There is no single right answer and this whole debate reflects a great deal about cognitive bias.

Some refreshing commentary in the article includes; “To speak of data as its own domain or as something separate from the business does data a disservice. As one executive says, “We don’t even use the word ‘data’ when talking to the business”.

Maybe we are reprising the period when early industrial companies no longer saw the need for a “Chief Electricity Officer”?

Yes, let’s reinvent the Chief Data Officer role through a broader lens.  

Randy and Allison suggest some key actions to make progress fast;

  • Relentlessly Prioritize and Focus. Prioritize and focus on answering questions that matter to the business. Answering these questions may only require a small subset of data.
  • Follow Business Demand. Adopt a demand-driven model rather than searching for a problem to solve.
  • Build Trust and Credibility. One Business Partner at a Time. Do this by delivering rapid business value for key business problems/questions.
  • Keep It Simple and Don’t Over-Engineer. With the best intentions, data leaders have too often over-engineered and over-architected how we think about and manage data.  Let’s simplify how businesses use data, not over-complicate matters.
  • Make it Easy to Use Data. Delivery of successful business outcomes means lowering the barriers of entry for business leaders and applying agility at every stage of the process.
  • Test and Learn. Experiment. Fail fast. Learn faster.
  • Think Differently. Companies need to develop a more agile spirit when it comes to making use of data. The time has come to stop the bleeding.

You can read Randy and Allison’s excellent article here . .  

Thanks for reading . . .