How to get buy-in from the top table


Introducing & embracing a new data-driven paradigm often requires difficult changes to mindsets, skills & behaviours – Brent Dykes

Did you know that if you Google ‘Data analytics’, 27,800,000 results come up! Data is fast becoming the new oil of the 21st century for businesses yet, despite there being so much information about it readily available, Kiwi businesses still have a way to go in terms of realising its full power and making it central to their business strategy.

In a recent survey of New Zealand marketers*, 82% said they were currently reviewing their data assets and strategy. Furthermore, only 23% believed their organisations had fully adopted data strategy in to their business operations and 33% said their organisation were still in the early stages of data maturity. What is promising is that 43% of respondents said their companies were in the process of developing data capability.

The fact is data and analytics have now become an integral decision-making tool for businesses and if you want to stay ahead of your competition, you have to understand what it means and work towards making it a core part of your business strategy. Technology and the digital world means businesses are not only competing with others just down the road, but with large global brands such as Amazon or Uber, who are already leveraging data to surprise and delight their customers and, as a consequence, have redefined the whole world of customer experience and expectations.

This is only possible with data and to succeed, it has to be fully supported at the top executive table as central to the company’s decision-making and everything it does.

But given Kiwi businesses are still in a relatively infant-stage of data analytics adoption, how do you get your executive team to believe in the benefits enough to invest in it further?

1. Identify key business pain points

A good starting point is to spend some time talking to key stakeholders across the business, as well as the executive team, about their own future requirements and issues. Use these conversations to compile a list of top pain points for the business and then develop a case for how how data can help alleviate or solve them.

2. Set up a cross-functional group to get buy-in across the company

Put simply; companies can no longer afford to work in silos if they want to deliver a seamless experience to their customers. Every part of a business holds specific data sets which need to be combined and shared across the business to ensure it can provide the right experience to the customer, at the right time. While many companies may argue they already do this, in practice it is quite difficult to achieve because of legacy systems, territory issues within departments and it also requires a cultural shift in thinking and working as a business. The sooner you can start discussing how data can be used and shared across the business and put a plan in place, the better. We talk more about this in our blog ‘Your company – left or right-brain driven?’ By mapping out what data you have across the business, you will be able to demonstrate to your executives what is be possible and the benefits to the business with further investment. In addition, it also starts the conversation cross-functionally on how this data can be shared and used.

3. Get some ‘quick wins’ first

Start small and look to get some runs on the board. You may have a strategic vision of data “utopia” for your business, but to get to this, concentrate on small bite size chunks. Focus on delivering results on small projects that will have an impact and validate your data strategy. The executive team will be receptive if they are witnessing tangible results.

4. Be transparent with your objectives

Be very clear on what you and the data will deliver, what you require and why you are requesting investment. I have seen a number of businesses who have fallen at the executive level due to not being able to clearly articulate the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ they are going to use the investment. Data is a new field that many executives have not yet seen an ROI on yet so be confident in your vision and provide evidence of other businesses success. Demonstrate the implications of ignoring data i.e. if you’re not using data to build a great experience for your customer, your competitors will be more than happy to!

5. Bring in a third-party data partner

Companies sometimes need more muscle at the start of a transformation project and a third party can act as a voice of reason and provide evidence of the benefits of other companies who have been successful in adopting a data-led strategy. Capturing data-related opportunities to improve revenues, boost productivity, and, sometimes, create entirely new businesses puts new demands on companies and can be a turn-off for executives given the investment, new resource and change in mind-set required. Sometimes without the extra horsepower of a third party, stoking the momentum of data analytics will be difficult for many organisations. A large part of Data Insight’s work involves carrying out an initial data audit for companies which is like creating the foundation plans of a house – not the most exciting part, but arguably the most important as it will help provide your executive team with an overview of what is possible! A basic data audit can tell you how much data you have and what you can do with it. Clean, organised data gives you a single source of truth, a reliable base of information from which to build a strategy and ultimately, value. Sometimes knowing what’s actually possible is half the battle!

6. Become your company’s biggest data advocate

Develop a draft ‘data vision’ for your company if there isn’t one already in place. This may mean you need to become the organisation’s top data literacy champion, making the business case for data-driven decision-making until you’re blue in the face! The more people within your organisation understand the benefits and how data can deliver actionable insights, the closer you will be to securing further investment from the top table.         You can also demonstrate the value of data in decision-making by taking on the role of storyteller i.e. translating data into insights and actionable recommendations that back up the company’s strategy, show what is driving profitable growth and how data can affect granular decision-making across all levels of the business.

*The Forbes article referenced is ‘Data-Driven Success Rests On The Shoulders Of A Strong Executive Sponsor’ by contributor Brent Dykes