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How to utilise data and analytics in private equity backed organisations

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Since the idea of ‘big data’ was introduced in the 1990’s, the breadth and depth of data available and the speed at which it can be collected has continued to increase exponentially.

Yet organisations are still finding it difficult to get their data and analytics right. Our recent Transformational Leadership report found that during successful transformation programmes, a third of senior leaders said their biggest challenge was their data integrity.

This issue is heightened further in Private Equity backed companies, which often face a five year horizon, where rapid transformation is critical to value creation. If these PortCos were to get their data and analytics right from the start, then it would lead to more successful transformation and a better chance of achieving their KPI’s.

We sat down with Robert Kent, experienced Chief Data and Analytics Officer, and Eddie Short, experienced Digital, Data and Technology Transformation leader to discuss the biggest challenges to getting data and analytics right, and the steps can these organisations take to set themselves up for success.

A business challenge, not a technology challenge

The first barrier to success that organisations face is what they categorise a data transformation project as. Robert Kent explains that ‘lots of organisations treat this as a technology programme, which is a significant risk. You need to see it as a cultural change. The technology is probably the most understood part of this and it’s more about how you operate, who is engaged with it and what value is it adding.’

The risk here is that organisations want a quick fix to their data challenges, and just put it on the CIO’s agenda as something they need to resolve. Eddie Short agrees that this will not deliver the results organisations need, ‘it’s a change management process and not a technology process. It needs to be led by a team that can easily bring things to life and show how it fits into the bigger picture for senior leadership.’

It’s important this is recognised early in a Port Co, as cultural transformation takes time to embed. If it’s left too late, then the Port Co won’t see the full value of it before the end of the investment horizon.

Put the focus on data at the start of transformation

Another challenge is that organisations often don’t know where to start when it comes to their data and they end up leaving it until the end of project, carrying analytics out to justify their actions or prove what they already know. ‘The classic thing is that reporting is done last’, Eddie Short states, ‘and typically in Port Co’s the CEO is the decision maker on these things, but they’re only focused on the financial numbers, looking at the output.’

One of the reasons organisations do this is often down to the lack of data or the lack of quality of the data. Robert Kent says that for many organisations ‘creating value from data is impeded by poor data and makes it difficult to know where to start, or the data doesn’t even exist in the first place to make a difference.’

With the pressure to deliver value and significant growth in a short time period, getting the approach to data right in a Port Co at the start of the process can have a huge impact on the returns generated. By using data as a predictive tool, to look at the end-to-end opportunity and process, these organisations can understand where they might need to make interventions to drive value even further during their investment horizon.

Top three things to set yourself up for success

It’s clear that getting your data process right is a challenge, but there are things you can do to set yourselves up for success and drive more effective transformation in your Port Co.

1. Get the right talent, technology and process in place early

As we’ve already mentioned, getting your data right is a change programme rather than a technology programme. You need to make sure you have the talent in place that can lead your this effectively. As Robert Kent says ’you need to assess the capability you have today and what you need as an end-state. From there you can develop your road map.’ Eddie Short agrees that by focusing on this at the start of your transformation ‘you can create more predictive models that helps to drive the business forward’.

2. Prioritise buy in from senior leadership

Without engagement with at the highest levels of the leadership team, getting your data and analytics right will be extremely difficult. Eddie Short explains that having great storytellers, rather than data experts is the best way to do this ‘There is still a massive resistance at the top of organisations. If the data disagrees with their perception, then they would tend to ignore it. A lot of this comes down to storytelling. Currently, the people presenting data aren’t communicating it well enough, and in particular how using data from ‘leading indicators’ can help you drive better results. If you work together with the leaders, rather than trying to be the smartest person in the room, you will see much greater success.’

3. Prove value of data early

Finally, demonstrating impact as early as possible will be critical to the success of any data and analytics efforts. Robert Kent makes the point that data professionals ‘shouldn’t go for the big change programme straight away. They need to go for a change programme that delivers impact within the first three to six months. The focus can be on the ultimate end goal, but if you can deliver alongside it early to prove the value then you will get buy in, otherwise the business will lose patience.’

Data could be the difference between success and failure

By focusing on these aspects of your data and analytics, you can set your organisation up for success during the investment horizon.

Acting early is critical, if done right at the start of an investment, it has the potential to substantially increase the impact of your transformation efforts and drive the most possible value for investors.

However, failure to act on this could lead to wasted resource in terms of investment and talent, and a data function that simply proves what you already know, adding no real value to the Port Co at all.

Written by

Cyr Cornberg

Cyr is a Senior Director within the IT & Technology Leadership Practice at BIE. He has over 26 years’ experience focusing on interim hires within the IT & Technology market.

Cyr has an exceptionally strong network built over the past 26 years, which includes Strategy, Architecture, Programme Management and Technology Leadership.

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