When the business environment undergoes significant change, it is common for executive and C-level roles to adjust and adapt to meet new challenges. For example, chief marketing officers (CMOs) arose to meet a new and unique need when media channels expanded and elevated the challenges of branding and demographic outreach. Today, the internet is spurring the evolution of business leadership at a far more rapid pace than ever before. For instance, chief data officers (CDOs) – those who manage data from collection and analysis to security - have risen to prominence. Increasingly, however, modern executives without a data-related title are expected to understand its use and implications.
So, in the era of big data, when businesses are looking to unleash the power of analytics, but don’t necessarily have the existing resources to do so, existing leaders and those looking to advance may need to expand their skill sets to maintain or achieve leadership positions in today’s C-Suite.
If you are pursuing an executive MBA degree and are working to ascend to the C-Suite, building your analytics acumen now can help you meet a growing need in company leadership. How can you prepare for the changes that Big Data and analytics are bringing to the corporate world? Below, we have defined how the C-Suite must shift its focus in the near future:
The Need for Training: The C-Suite Welcomes New Skills
Leveraging opportunities related to big data can improve revenues, raise productivity and place new demands on leadership — requiring significant changes in upper management capabilities and front-line training. Soon, it is likely that data-driven decision making won’t be cutting-edge, and understanding analytics won’t simply a “plus” on your resume; in the future, data-related skills may be necessary, and all company leadership may need to prioritize them.
In an article entitled “How to Get on the Shortlist for the C-Suite,” Harvard Business Review reports on a “fixer” who “upped her organization’s analytics capability” during a time when the company was actively losing customers to competitors online. Her ability to leverage data to increase the business’s bottom line is directly correlated to her role as CFO today. Companies are starting to reward employees with this unique skill-set as they continue to recognize the power of data.
Whether through more training or hiring of analytics experts, today’s organizations will need individuals who can learn, grow and work efficiently in an environment of rapid change. Understanding analytics can help executives work effectively with their experts or leverage the data themselves to initiate positive, data-driven change for their business. Becoming knowledgeable on this topic is not as difficult as it may sound. As big data is now generally housed in the cloud, the accumulation and interpretation of this data is easier and more user-friendly than ever.
The Need for Knowledge: The C-Suite Focuses on Predictive Analytics
Data can and should be leveraged in a number of ways. Predictive analytics, for example, offers powerful insights into how a business is doing and what it could be doing better. Utilizing past data to predict future behavior can not only shed light on what worked in the past, it can also help companies pinpoint customers’ profitable behaviors, compute customer lifetime values, understand customers’ likelihood of buying particular items, and more. These companies can then use this data to target customers with relevant information and personalized promotions to drive sales and brand equity. For a multitude of reasons, this type of data analysis has become invaluable in both the public and private sector.
According to McKinsey and Company, “The new environment … requires management skills to engage growing numbers of deep statistical experts who create the predictive or optimization models that will underwrite growth.” The ability to predict outcomes and therefore implement changes to improve them is extremely powerful, and is an attractive proposition for any C-Suite member. As Susan Zeller, Vermont’s Chief Performance Officer, told GovTech, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure if you don’t have any data.” Ultimately, you can’t measure or improve your business without top-down C-Suite leadership focus and knowledge of Big Data.
The Need for Understanding: The C-Suite Recognizes Global Applications and Opportunities
The importance of predictive analytics to the C-Suite is not a local phenomenon. According to CFO.com, more than 30% of C-Suite executives worldwide have described big data as a hindrance, rather than a help, to the decision-making process. CFO goes on to note that, “…faulty interpretation of data invites error in deriving and applying insights. These new risks have created opportunities for the CFO to collaborate with both other members of the C-Suite and human resources to usher in new ways of working and to obtain a competitive advantage in their markets.” All around the world, big data presents a unique challenge and incredible opportunity for success for business.
The Need for Change: C-Suite Roles Stay Ahead of the Curve
The solution to these aforementioned needs may be to raise the mandate of chief information, strategy, marketing or risk management officers; other companies may require new roles entirely. It will be important to clarify the most important roles executives play and then set out critical questions to inform a revision of the C-Suite. It may seem daunting to revise top management roles, but failing to do so could mean endangering growth and stability, leaving a foothold to new competitors.
Senior teams will need to acquire knowledge of data analytics in order to understand new possibilities and embrace big data as a critical business concern. When top-level perspective is established, changes can permeate organizational structures. The goal should be to openly share and explore ideas probing for new analytics opportunities — all of which will help energize a changing organization.
For members of the C-Suite, completing an executive MBA online degree may be one way to stay ahead of the curve and continue to maintain leadership positions. Washington State University’s online executive MBA program emphasizes strategy, innovation and leadership to help you emerge as a critical player in today’s rapidly changing business environment – it even offers Business Analytics. Complete the program from your home or office in just 18 months. Learn more by visiting WSU’s executive MBA program online.