Recently, I read an e-book “The Roadmap to Building a Data-Driven Optimisation Team”. The book had some interesting anecdotes which got me thinking. As all businesses go the data way, I think it is necessary to focus on the kind of leadership required to guide a typical data-driven enterprise. So crucial is this that even a much-earlier written article in The Wall Street Journal mentions how most data-driven companies have higher productivity and profitability than those who are not following this key growth accelerator. But being data-driven does not mean only using analytics or having the cutting-edge technology. It is much more than that.

Today, it has become even more vital to be recognised as a data-driven enterprise. To do so, the leadership team assumes a high responsibility. The business leaders need to ensure that they create the right environment in the organisation so that it will sustain the popular data-driven demands. In that sense, here are some pointers I would like to share on the role of a leader per say in a data-driven business setup.

Mark of a data-driven leader

Before we understand what role a leader plays, it would be good to know what type of a person he or she needs to be.

The data-driven leaders are typically data strategists. They are well versed with business intelligence and are sensitive to things such as data privacy and governance. They know the worth of predictive modeling and analytics. They not only understand their business, the industry the domain, but also understand their data and know what answers the data can provide. They are able to speak the language of business as well as data scientists. These qualities are then further strengthened by other important characteristics such as the ability to build strong teams and having a sound understanding of business processes. Thus, a data-driven leader has a combination of skill sets ranging from technical expertise to non-technical business knowledge.

What a data-driven leadership offers

In simple words, the leader translates business objectives into data strategies and better business judgments. This leader successfully identifies the business goals in terms of data sourcing and integrating all the necessary tasks with the help of data science. They basically know how to use analytics to achieve business goals. The corollary to this is that they encourage data scientists to come up with efficient data solutions.

A leader in this type of a setup also performs the role of bringing together different teams – right from marketing to finance – and guide them to become effective using analytical business insights. In fact, we get to see the usage of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the likes, i.e. all the latest business trends being put into use, by such leaders.

Another unique role is that this leader also supports innovation and is instrumental in building an organisational culture which believes in the goodness of data and analytics. Hence, one will find a well thought of data infrastructure available for the company’s employees which supports data acquisition, storage, mining, and so on.

All in all, a data leader is able to identify possible data analytics techniques required for the particular company, create an environment which can exploit those techniques, and eventually define a strategic model which has a strategy to effectively use those for achieving the business goals.

In hindsight

I personally feel that a data-driven leadership should be supported with equally qualifying appointments in the business setup such as that of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) and a data management team who understand the data agenda of the organisation. After all, unless and until there is a group of employees to rely on, the role of a leader in a data-driven company will seem incomplete and will not achieve the desired end results. Data leadership needs to capture business opportunities using multiple strategies which fully utilise today’s complex data products. Of course, there is no specific plan all data leaders can follow. Neither is there any structured list of activities they can adhere to. The role of a leader in such a scenario ideally changes according to the needs and requirements of the business strategy and market conditions. Only thing is that a data-driven leadership should successfully be able to make use of the ever-evolving data architecture and tools and technology.

Data Scientists provide a great support system to data leaders. However, with the growing demand for data scientists and shrinking supply, a new concept of Citizen Data Scientists is emerging. These are the business leaders who don’t necessarily understand the nuances of stats, math, and machine learning, but they understand that importance of data and how it can be leveraged for decision-making.

At Inteliment, we aim to give the power of data science in the hands of business leaders Through our data science platform, iDS Cloud. To know more about it, have a look at