David Reed Leading from the gut

How deeply have data-driven decision making and business processes penetrated into UK plc? According to our latest State of the Nation survey, it is obvious that many of the basics have gained real traction. Yet there is a long way to go before every organisation can be assumed to be data-enabled.

A notable finding is the extent to which data quality programmes are in place. In the 2009 sample, three quarters of organisations say they are operating these, although this falls to six out of ten companies when combining this year’s responses with last year’s. At least the majority have obviously understood that data requires maintenance, cleaning and enhancement.

This will stand them in good stead if they are among the half of businesses which have yet to build a single customer view. Surprisingly, only one in two respondents has put together this key strategic resource. Despite a continuous stream of news headlines about major projects being undertaken to integrate customer data, for a lot of companies this remains an elusive goal.

Why should this be? One reason is that SCV is still primarily seen as a marketing tool. Although customer management and insight have started to use single views, where they exist, many companies do not have a CRM strategy and are not making use of insight and predictive analytics.

This is often the turning point – an organisation realises that the way it decides what actions to carry out next should no longer be based on gut feel, but what customer data indicates. It is eay to assume that companies without SCV have been daunted by the scale and potential cost of such a project. But among respondents who do not have this resource, a range of reasons were cited. A lack of dedicated resource topped the list, suggesting that data practitioners have still to find homes in many UK businesses.

Cost was an argument against building SCV, but so too was it not being part of the company culture. And that is probably the hardest factor to change. There are still many directors who feel that they should be deciding what to do, not a set of data. Until a new generation of leaders, schooled in data and its strengths, takes over at the top, perhaps we will be stuck with a country that is only half informed.

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