Who Owns Data At Your Company?

Interana Blog StaffSeptember 26, 2017

Analytics and business intelligence technologies are advancing quickly, but the data challenge that most organizations face is not technical one, it’s a lack of access to the right data.

While every company believes data is important, not every company has been able to build a data culture that gives access to every employee to help them make data-informed decisions. A study by IBM found that managers waste 70 percent of their time trying to find the data, while they only spend 30 percent of the time analyzing it.

The companies that succeed will create an environment where data is accessible to all employees, and the right tools are available to generate answers. But before you get there, every company goes through three stages of data ownership transition.

What stage of data development are you in?

Stage 1: IT owns the data

Every company starts their data journey with IT. Data is a byproduct of technology, and for most companies, all technology-based decisions go through IT.

IT is responsible for architecting and maintaining the organization's systems to keep the applications and infrastructure running smoothly. Until recently, business intelligence and analytics technologies were extremely complicated to use, and managing data required a methodical process with a full technology stack.

Full-scale BI solution

By centralizing your data in one place, IT is able to manage every aspect of collecting, cleaning and storing the data. They are able to control how the data is used, with a focus on data quality, integrations and governance. While these aspects of data management are important, they create a more complex process for people to access data quickly.

Centralized data management limits business insights

IT departments can’t keep up with the demand for business insights.

Data requests are coming in every day from people in every department who need answers yesterday. CIOs lack the resources to address every request, which means people have to wait. The priorities usually go to the larger strategic initiatives, which makes it almost impossible for IT to help answer the daily tactical questions that employees need.

Timo Elliot cartoon

When data access is centralized, it soon becomes a bottleneck to getting the data you need quickly, and in the digital economy, timely insights are needed every day.

Stage 2: Marketing accesses their own data

When your CMO has the same technology budget as your CIO, your company has made the shift to making data more accessible outside of IT.

Marketing has evolved from an art to a science, and it is all because of data. In the digital age, the only way marketing can understand their customer's behavior and improve their digital experience is through analyzing the data collected from the myriad of marketing technologies.

There are now over 5000 marketing applications generating an enormous amount of data that is completely controlled by the CMO. Historically, marketers needed to work with IT to analyze their customer data, but the proliferation of SaaS and cloud-based tools that provided self-service analytics has created a new level of autonomy.

The marketing technology stack looks as complicated as the traditional BI stack with one very important distinction: all of the technologies within the stack can be managed by non-technical employees.


Adroll marketing stack Source: Adroll

When marketing gained access to their own data and tools, they quickly evolved into data-informed tacticians. Every decision they make from strategic to tactical is now based on data. Our 2017 State of Data Insights Survey found that the marketing department leads most companies in making data-informed decisions.

Which teams make data-informed decisions?

Marketing can now measure everything, optimize their campaigns and tie their efforts back to revenue. This is a far cry from the marketing of the past that was driven by big ideas and gut-feelings with little to no accountability.

Marketing now a valuable asset within the company

Before their digital transformation, marketing was seen as a cost-center that could not add strategic value to the rest of the organization. The transition of data ownership has completely changed how marketing is viewed and utilized by the CEO.

CMOs now have direct input into company strategy, technology decisions, innovation and even finance. The customer feedback data generated by marketing has become extremely valuable to the rest of the company and informs big strategic initiatives.

Stage 3: Let everyone access data

When marketing gained control of their data, they quickly evolved into a data-informed group and were elevated to a more strategic voice within the entire organization. What would happen if all employees had similar access to data and the tools to analyze it?

According to the McKinsey Global Survey, the highest performing companies around the world make their data accessible across the organization and provide self-service analytics capabilities to run customizable queries.

McKinsey advanced data analytics Source: McKinsey

The reality is that every department within your company is already trying to find the data they need to make better decisions.

Our survey found that marketing isn't the only group heavily using data to make decisions. The need is there; it is merely a matter of changing your company's data culture to unleash your data to everyone who needs it.

The chart below shows the groups within the company that want more data to answer business questions and make better decisions.

heaviest analytics users

Access to data is worthless without the right tools

The biggest argument for not giving people access to data has always been based on their lack of data science skills to properly analyze the data on their own.

That sentiment is quickly changing as more self-service analytics and BI tools like Interana are made available to help anyone answer a question. Gartner predicts that 40% of data science tasks will be automated by 2020, opening up more opportunities for all employees to use data in their daily decision-making process.

Analytics tools are replacing the traditional technology stacks that were previously needed to collect, clean and analyze different datasets. The tedious technical work that once required hours from IT is now automated within a system that is designed to analyze raw data and deliver answers in real time.

Don't get left behind waiting for answers

Business moves fast and won't wait for people who can't find answers in seconds, let alone hours.

There is no debate that leveraging your data is a powerful differentiator, but who has access to the data is where companies diverge. The highest performing companies have data cultures where every decision maker has immediate access to the data they need. That is where companies now need to be to stay competitive and survive.

Centralized control of data was a good idea when analytics technology was too complicated for everyone to use, but the proliferation of data and analytics within the marketing department proved that access to data and self-service technology will create an entirely new way of working.

When the rest of your company is exposed to similar tools and access to data, your entire organization will experience a culture shift where every decision is informed by data.

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