Digital transformation initiatives are crucial for business survival in today’s economy, with data analytics at the forefront. However, 67% of CEOs said the have ignored insights given by data analysis or computer-driven models in the last three years, reported KPMG’s 2019 US CEO Outlook study.

SEE: Special report: Turning big data into business insights (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

An analytics-driven company culture begins at the top, yet most executives are uncomfortable with analytics platforms, opting for following their gut and intuition when making business decisions, the report found.

However, investing in these technologies is not only necessary to remain competitive in today’s market, but can prove to be overwhelmingly beneficial for CEOs wanting a deeper understanding of their organization, Frank Casal, audit vice chair at KPMG, said in the report.

To help motivate CEOs to prioritize data in their business, Brad Fisher, US leader of data and analytics at KPMG, outlined the following five ways CEOs can build a data-drive organization.

1. Stay business focused

Too often companies obsess about technology without weighing up the business case for embracing it. CEOs should ask the question — what is the business problem we want data to solve? Once that’s determined executives can set business-relevant key performance indicators (KPIs).

2. Create a data-led culture

Many times CEOs approach data purely from a business strategy point of view but it’s impossible to implement a successful strategy if company culture hasn’t already embraced the idea of being data-driven. That type of company-wide culture needs to be increasingly collaborative and interactive. And to help nurture this culture companies need to think big but start small. In doing so they can convince all the organization how data will help their work.

3. Have confidence in using data insight to create value

For CEOs who prefer to trust their own instincts, making decisions based on data rather than their gut might at first feel uncomfortable and counterintuitive — especially when the insights are being provided by an algorithm, not a human. Building a framework of checks and balances to ensure trust in the data is crucial. That involves making sure algorithms aren’t relying on biased information and that diligent quality control measures are in place.

4. Know what you do well and when to collaborate

Every CEO needs to think very hard about where their business fits into the new data ecosystem. With the biggest tech companies spending billions on data infrastructure and young data-driven start-ups innovating faster than any established business can hope to match, leaders need to evaluate where they want to compete and where they really have a differentiating part of their business model. CEOs will want to review their current value chain on an ongoing basis to evaluate how data analytics, intelligent automation and AI can help them stay relevant and competitive.

5. Time for CEOs to lead from the front

Even when CEOs do grasp the importance of integrating a data culture throughout the organization they sometimes don’t think they have the authority in the subject to convince others. Because they lack expertise they look to delegate — putting responsibility for building a data-driven culture in the hands of other executives, which may also send the message to other parts of the business that it’s not their concern either. Even today, many organizations still struggle to build a successful data-driven operation not because of technical reasons but because of internal politics.

For more about the other findings in the report, check out The CEO’s best kept secret to maintaining an organization’s relevance on TechRepublic.

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Image: iStockphoto/Pattanaphong Khuankaew