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The conversation has raised its head again in recent months. I’ve been tagged into multiple LinkedIn posts on the topic, and there’s one thing that has become increasingly obvious to me; we’re all aiming to “add value”, but many have no definition of what “value” means. Having facilitated this conversation more times than I care to remember, I’m fairly confident in saying that not everyone defines “value” in the same way. So what exactly is a value driven CDAO?

It starts with this question, why do we struggle to define “value”?

I believe, largely speaking, just like beauty, value is often in the eye of the beholder, meaning, it is subjective and contextual to the organisation, industry, legacy, and its stakeholders. Some Leaders view value as contribution towards revenue, some view value as any benefit of using data, some delivering a platform, dashboard, or model. I’ve even met data leaders who view value as putting a tangible figure onto the value of their data (like another tangible asset). And then of course there are the people who blatantly admit to not knowing whether they’ve added value or not.

Yet, the reality is, if you ask any CEO, Exco or board how they quantify value, you’ll get a fairly consistent response, one that usually aids strategic business goals to uncover top/bottom-line growth.

For me, this provokes some questions. Maybe this merely highlights how far-removed D&A still is from the top table? Maybe we’re being asked to deliver value through the lens of someone else’s world (CIO, CMO, CFO, etc)? Is that causing a disconnect between what a board expects versus what we’re delivering?

There’s one thing I’m confident on though, just because D&A is rarely the action taker, categorically doesn’t mean that it cannot directly add value. Irrespective of whether we talk about impact on the bottom line or not. One thing remains true for me, if a Data & Analytics team cannot quantify and articulate how they add business value then they’re ultimately in trouble. The first step has got to be defining what value is to the people that ultimately pay for you to be there.

So, where does that leave the Data Leader/CDAO in this equation?

It’s not always popular, but in my opinion, this is the role of the modern-day CDAO/Data Leader, to deliver commercial benefit from an organisation’s D&A investments, as ultimately, we’ve moved into age where that’s what our business leaders want and expect from the investments they make into Data, Analytics and AI initiatives. But here’s the kicker, that realisation often comes as an afterthought for most organisations (after they’ve spent a lot of cash and realise that they’ve got very little to show from it.)  I recorded a Driven by Data | The Podcast episode a little while ago where the guest shared some research which stated that circa 70% of D&A teams fail to provide any commercial benefit (cost reduction or revenue generation).

However, the challenge here is that organisations do not hire for those skills. I’d go as far to suggest that 8 out of 10 Data Leadership hiring processes are geared towards assessing technical competence and not the ability to deliver tangible commercial value. That’s in part because, as suggested above, it’s an afterthought, but also because many organisations are simply unsure on how to interview and assess for those skills. They don’t have any framework to evaluate the skills that are required to deliver a D&A capability that drives commercial business performance. Until we break that cycle, I think we’ll continue to find ourselves shaving this conversation. While it’s far from easy to do, it is possible and also what business leaders now expect.

About the Author

Kyle Winterbottom

CEO & Founder

Kyle is hugely passionate about enabling organizations to drive decisions and obtain value from the use of Data, Analytics & AI. The two biggest assets a business has are People & Data! Kyle speaks to hundreds of Data & Analytics leaders every year and says every single one is facing similar challenges to you, in some way, shape, or form. That is what led him to create Orbition Group. Read more.

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