For a customer-centric business, you need data in the boardroom

Decisions based purely on collective experience and gut instincts just don’t cut it any more.

By Adam Driussi

Like the fax machine and the long lunch, the era where corporate boards were part of an easy transition from management to retirement has passed. Boards across the country are prioritising diversity of experience and specialised skill sets, and established directors are constantly refreshing their knowledge base to meet a fast-moving business environment. Decisions based purely on collective experience and gut instincts just don’t cut it any more.

One area that boards and directors are increasingly called upon to navigate with dexterity is data use, with the availability of data assets and the ability of a firm to leverage them fast becoming the determinants of its future. At a board level, data analytics and AI solutions aren’t just there to validate corporate knowledge – they have the power to extend the vision of directors beyond their combined experience and re-orientate the source of truth in the boardroom to the authentic changing needs of customers.

This is why the thriving organisations of the decades to come are placing excellence in data not only at the heart of their management, but also around the boardroom table. Directors are dealing with questions that explicitly call for expertise on issues such as data strategy, privacy and security. There are innumerable decisions made that can be bettered by the presence around the table of people with a sound grasp of where and how to deploy data science and AI in the decision-making process.

This all relies on the ready availability of quality information that can be utilised by directors, which can either be the oxygen of future growth or a confused plethora of signal and noise. Boards are responsible for the well-being of the organisation, and the information that shows exactly how the organisation is helping customers and stakeholders is essential to this mandate, yet it is not easy to find. Good directors need to be keenly aware of what data should be available at each step of the process and actively demanding it from management. They should also be increasingly sensitive to the provenance of the information being supplied to them.

Deciding what to measure and how to keep the organisation accountable to those measures is the governance challenge of our time. It’s no longer acceptable for these data points to be locked up in a vault or silo, or wasted and not curated into a meaningful picture. Innovation around data sets and use cases is moving fast. Companies who are not able to capture and use these clues from customers for the benefit of those customers are being outpaced by those who can.

For those with a long tenure in corporate governance and a shorter history with data science, it can be easy to simply focus on the risks associated with corporate data use, and it’s appropriate that boards take a leading role in managing these risks.

A quick look at the growth in the capitalisation of the largest five companies on the planet today tells the story from a valuation perspective. All are tech companies and all are data-driven, with large-scale systems to capture signals from customers at mass scale, and many of their current revenue streams were secured at the expense of established competitors who failed to see the potential of data to their business.

The corporations that survive and thrive in this environment will need better informed, customer-centric boardrooms. Data and AI will be at that table, allowing directors to be properly equipped in holistic debate about strategy, capital allocations, innovation and risk through the lens of the customer and their future needs. The boardroom dashboard of the future is not an endless PowerPoint deck – it is an organic, real-time, data-driven view of customers, society, employees, shareholders, and the company’s performance in financial and social outcomes.

At Quantium, we have over 17 years’ experience building and curating corporate data resources and putting them to use from the boardroom to the front line. Whether you are just starting out or advanced on your data journey it’s always worth a conversation.

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