Everyone is a data leader—yes you!

Written by Emily McHugh, Director of Strategic Initiatives, SQA Grpup

Every leader is a data leader. I’ll say it louder for those in the back… EVERY leader is a data leader. From revenue and strategy teams to operations and people teams, there is no business function that can afford to not harness it’s functional and organisational data.

As I think back on my time leading fundraising for a nonprofit, I’m not sure I considered myself much of a data leader. But, in truth, I was utilizing data every day to steer decision-making that would ultimately positively impact our organization’s health and growth. In fact, I was likely the heaviest user of organizational data.

Data powered everything in my day-to-day, from helping me segment and send targeted messaging to donors based on preferred channels, to analyzing past giving patterns to predict when they’re likely to give again, to predicting future grant funds and event revenue so that I could plan accordingly. Data helped me track campaign performance and donor engagement, as well as show donors and foundations how their funds were impacting service population outcomes. I was able to tell incredible stories of long-term impact because of data collection and analysis. And, had I ignored what my data was telling me, I would have been aimless—instead defaulting to random gut-based decision making, unable to back up my decisions or make a case to shift away from long-held strategy beliefs.

No matter your job, data plays a critical role in both your individual success, and in the success of the organization as a whole. From influencing day-to-day decisions to informing long-term strategy, data is an essential resource to tap. And in today’s world, embracing data leadership is no longer optional — it’s a necessity.


The imperative of data leadership

In today’s digital age, data is generated at an unprecedented rate. Every interaction, transaction, and process produces valuable data points that, when analyzed correctly, can provide incredible insights, including opportunities for cost savings and new revenue streams. A McKinsey Global survey found that respondents at high-performing companies “are three times more likely than others to say their data monetization efforts contribute more than 20 percent to company revenues.”

Organizations that leverage data effectively are better positioned to outperform their competitors. A recent found that data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable. In an era where competitive advantage is fleeting, the ability to swiftly interpret and act on data can be the difference between success and failure.


Data leadership across business functions

Let’s dive into three business functions and how they benefit from harnessing their data.

  • Marketing: Personalization is no longer a luxury; it’s an expectation. By analyzing data from various touchpoints, marketers can gain a 360-degree view of their customers. This includes understanding their preferences, behaviors, and pain points, which in turn enables the creation of highly targeted and relevant marketing campaigns. Data allows marketers to tailor their messages to individual customers, improving engagement and conversion rates. According to McKinsey, companies that thrive at personalization earn 40% more money from these activities than the average competitor. What’s more, data-driven marketing provides clear metrics to measure the return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns. This allows leaders to allocate resources more effectively, optimizing marketing spend for maximum impact.
  • Sales: In sales, data is a powerful tool for identifying opportunities, improving customer interactions, and forecasting future performance. Data can help sales teams prioritize leads based on their likelihood to convert. By analyzing past interactions, demographics, and behavioral data, sales leaders can create predictive models that identify high-potential leads. Data-driven forecasting models can provide sales leaders with insights into future sales trends, helping them make informed decisions about resource allocation and target setting.
  • Strategy: Strategic decision-making is inherently data-driven. Leaders who incorporate data into their strategic planning can make more informed, forward-thinking decisions that drive long-term success. Data provides valuable insights into market trends, competitor activities, and customer needs. Strategic leaders can use this information to identify opportunities for growth and innovation. When it comes to team performance, data-driven performance measurement allows leaders to track progress against strategic goals. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards provide real-time insights into how well the organization is performing and where adjustments may be needed.

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