Modern Data Leaders Put Their Customers at the Center of Everything They Do

Since the creation of the data and analytics function in companies, data practitioners have battled with a tendency to focus on how they support their customers to justify their existence instead of why.

As I discuss in my latest ebook, The Playbook for Modern Data Leadership, this inward focus on the mechanics of managing and governing data in lieu of a focus on customer needs is a major contributor to the negative mindsets poisoning our data organizations today.

Put Customers — Not Data — at the Center of Your Data Strategy

This focus on technology and the internal mechanics of managing data would lead to a startling number of my CDO clients being largely unaware of how their businesses function. I was routinely asked by my clients for recommendations on how to measure their respective business processes — generally as a result of my recommendation they focus efforts on not measuring business outcomes.

If a CDO is in the business of producing data to improve business outcomes, then knowing what those outcomes are — and how they are created — should be job number-one for any data leader.

However, a lack of this knowledge is a clear indication that many data leaders do not put their customers at the heart of their data strategy and supporting operating model but have instead put data itself in that position. Focusing on data, and not customer success, helps reinforce feedback loops that feed negative mindsets in data organizations.

This is because nobody outside the data organization cares about the “how” of data governance or data management — nor should they. This means any attempt to validate the importance of the data function through a narrative focused on the systems or methods used to manage or govern data is futile.

However, that’s exactly what many data leaders do, which makes people in data functions feel undervalued and makes them far more likely to complain about their jobs. This reinforces negative perceptions of the data team outside the CDO organization, which negatively reinforces the job satisfaction of everyone in a data role.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Importance of Product Management in Your Data Strategy

The way out of this negative feedback loop is for data leaders to embrace a positive mindset that begins with putting their customers at the center of everything they do. This is accomplished by embracing more product- and design-centric approaches to building solutions and a more widespread integration of product management disciplines into data governance and management.

A rabid focus on customer success will best position data leaders to break the negative feedback loop of feeling undervalued or underutilized, as they will focus on only building solutions that customers want to use and would otherwise happily pay for. They will embrace product management as a core operating model within their data functions and will execute against a product strategy that’s fully aligned to a business strategy. Over time, a culture will develop that’s focused entirely on customers and not on data.

It’s no surprise to me that companies that are struggling to regain market share or return to profitability will almost always start with a renewed focus on understanding and focusing on their core customers. As an analyst, I heard this time and time again — where MDM would be used to help build a customer 360 as a foundational element of some renewed focus on customer centricity.

Data leaders would be well-served to take a playbook on customer centricity from their business counterparts.

The Playbook for Modern Data Leadership

21 pages of insights designed to help you unlock the full potential of your organization's data.
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