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Firms that understand true data value surpass peers

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Ian Fletcher, director of the IBM Institute for Business Value, Middle East and Africa.
Ian Fletcher, director of the IBM Institute for Business Value, Middle East and Africa.

Eleven percent of South African C-suite executives have a business-integrated data strategy in place, while 89% are either still struggling with data management, or are at varying stages of their data journey.


This is according to Ian Fletcher, director of the IBM Institute for Business Value, Middle East and Africa, speaking yesterday at the ITWeb Cloud, Data Centre & DevOps Summit, at The Forum, in Bryanston.

He unpacked IBM’s 20th Edition Global C-suite Study, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with academics, futurists and technology visionaries. The research draws on input from 13 484 respondents in C-suite roles across 20 industries and 98 countries.

The study found data has become inextricably entwined with trust and transparency – the ongoing and widespread erosion of customer trust has changed what organisations can, and should, do with data.

According to the study, those organisations that understand that transparency and accountability are important ingredients for earning trust among customers were able to better use data to gain business value and increase their revenue.

It also found there is greater willingness from customers to share information with companies that are transparent in how their data is used.

“While 9% of organisations across the globe understand and recognise the true value of data and have a business-integrated data strategy, the rest were still at varying stages of their data journey,” noted Fletcher.

“Some organisations are still exploring how to get there, some are aspiring, others starting to build on the process, while some don’t know how to get there altogether. This gap is expected to become bigger if organisations don’t focus on their data strategy as a data cultural element; data has to be like electricity flowing through every aspect of the business.”

The study participants were classified into one of four stages:

  • Torchbearers (9%) represent a unique group that turned to data to strengthen the trust they earn from customers.
  • Explorers (21%) are experimenting with ways to integrate their business and data strategies, as well as with new ways to extract value from data.
  • Builders (46%) are gaining medium value from data but are making progress in aligning their business with data strategy.
  • Aspirationals (25%) are seeing low value from data and are beginning to integrate enterprise-wide business and data strategies.

Greater opportunities to create success

Torchbearers delivered exceptional results, vastly outpacing the data-nascent aspirationals, with revenue growth of 165% more, and an innovation leadership which is 208% more compared to industry peers, according to the study.

“The study highlights real challenges facing C-suite executives, because data is just everywhere and they are trying to find the best way to control and manage it,” said Fletcher.

“The torchbearers have established a new path to value, by integrating data into their strategy, operations and culture.

“They recognise data as a strategic asset in their organisation and are also recognising they are only as good as the people who trust them with their data.”

The world is becoming more and more regulated. Customers trusting organisations with their personal data has become the defining issue for leading organisations, reshaping their offerings and even their business models, he continued.

“Torchbearers pursue ways to create deep and sustainable customer trust, surpassing their peers in the collection and use of trustworthy data to change the customer experience and capitalise on the trust they’ve earned from customers and the trust they have in their data to transform their business models.”

Moreover, customers have mixed feelings about the benefits that are gained through technology by sacrificing their privacy. C-suite executives understand that to get access to data, they have to give something meaningful in return, such as personalised customer products and services, added Fletcher.

“To succeed in retaining trust while growing the business or expanding into new markets, executives need to use data to identify new strategies; architect their organisation to be open, including using open APIs with their partners; and create security, transparency and accountability for data that runs through their business platforms.”

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