CEOs have rosier view of data initiatives than rest of management

Thor Olavsrud

Fifty-one percent of CEOs feel data availability has improved employee engagement, satisfaction and retention, but only 35 percent of the rest feel the same way; 58 percent of CEO believe data deployment has improved the quality and speed of execution, but only 47 percent of the rest agree.

The gap may seem mystifying, even if the CEO's reports are giving him or her skewed results, but it may also be a function of a CEO's wider view. Franks notes that just as some NFL teams may be considered to have a top-notch defense and running game but weak passing game, so too might enterprises do exceptionally well with data in certain divisions and poorly in others.

"You often can have a team that's near the top of the rankings in one or two categories, but stinks at another," he says. "In large enterprises, lots of different departments have different needs, different offices and different cultures. Certain divisions may be very good with analytics while others aren't."

The report is clear that data-driven organizations tend to outperform and be more innovative than their competitors. The Economist Intelligence Unit found a high correlation between a company's propensity to rely on data when making decisions and its profitability and ability to innovate: 59 percent of data-driven companies outperform their competitors in profitability compared with 40 percent of companies with low reliance on data, and 63 percent of data-driven companies have a culture of creativity and innovation compared with 37 percent of companies with low reliance on data.

Still, becoming data-driven is no small challenge. Franks notes that aside from CEOs' generally rosy picture of data initiatives, companies are struggling to make data available and convert data into insights.

The majority of survey respondents (57 percent) believe their company does a poor job of capturing and disseminating important business data. Underperforming, less innovative and less tech-reliant companies struggle the most, according to the survey, but even the most data-driven and top-performing companies struggle to make data available evenly across the organization. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say some departments have much better access to data than others, and this grows more pronounced at larger companies (with more than $500 million in annual revenue).

The Trouble With Data
There are also types of data that are causing many organizations grief. Daily transaction data is considered the most useful (by 61 percent of respondents) and also highly available (77 percent of respondents agree), but the picture is very different when it comes to data about customer demographics and behavioral patterns.

This data is considered the next-most-valuable, but only 28 percent of respondents feel it is widely available. Forty-five percent of respondents also see external market data as relevant and useful, but only 36 percent of respondents feel it's readily available.

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