Business Leaders Need Data Literacy and Data Leaders Need Business Literacy

I was at the MIT CDO Symposium in Boston at the end of July, where there was a lot of discussion around the business value of data, and the challenges of cultural and behavioral change. I agree that business leaders need more data literacy. And I also think the corollary is true: data leaders need more business literacy.

In Dr. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Habit 5 is “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Unless we work hard to understand the other person’s perspective, two people can see the same thing and form completely different viewpoints, because they are understanding “autobiographically,” based on their own experiences.

Consequently, I believe that CDOs and CIOs need to be fluent in conversational business. More importantly, they should always be speaking in the local language when possible. Are you bi-lingual?

Just as many languages have regionally specific dialects, so does the language of business. So which dialects do you speak for business? Can you talk cross departmentally? Here are some business literacy examples that touch on a different department’s needs or focal points.

I believe that CDOs have a unique opportunity to be the “United Nations of Business Translator” to bridge the IT and Business communication gap. They can help the business understand the value of data relative to their day-to-day activities, and also help IT understand the business activities supported by data management. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that in the United States alone companies will need to two to four million “translators” in the next decade.

So, what might a conversation between a CDO and CFO look like?

I understand Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) has been increasing and you’re concerned because it impacts earnings, market capitalization, and credit worthiness.

I can help you:

  • Harmonize order entry, inventory and supply chain data to ensure accurate delivery date quotes and increase complete order-fill rates
  • Ensure accurate and complete shipping data to increase on-time deliver rates
  • Ensure accurate and complete billing and contact data to decrease invoice delivery time
  • Ensure accurate and complete purchase order and tax data to decrease invoice disputes

In addition to helping manage DSO, this will help:

  • Increase customer satisfaction and repeat business
  • Reduce returns, allowances and discounts
  • Reduce re-shipping and logistics costs
  • Increase productivity of Order Entry, Accounts Receivable, Pick and Pack, and Logistics processes

What I need from you is commitment to:

  • Measure key metrics DSO, Invoice Disputes, On-Time Delivery, etc., beforehand
  • Continue to monitor and measure key metrics as we actively manage the data
  • Confirm key metrics improvements are a result of improved data management

What do you think? I’d welcome your thoughts on Data Literacy, Business Literacy, Demonstrating the Business Value of Data and Driving Cultural and Behavioral Change.

You may also want to read this eBook, “How to Govern Your Data as a Business Asset.”

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