digital connections

Perspectives

Making data a board agenda issue

By Cathy Englebert

There is a fundamental differentiator that will play a critical role in how companies effectively compete in the decade to come: getting the right data, extracting insights from that data, and identifying the platforms on which data can be used strategically. Author Cathy Engelbert, chief executive officer of Deloitte, discusses how every company should consider itself a data company with a differentiated platform. As published in the January/February 2017 issue of NACD Directorship magazine.

Technological change

In a recent poll of Fortune 500 CEOs, the rapid pace of technological change was voted the single biggest challenge facing companies, with 67 percent of re­spondents saying they consider their com­pany to be a technology company. This re­sponse is striking given that less than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies are des­ignated as being in the technology sector.

Yet, there’s an even more fundamental differentiator that will play a critical role in how companies effectively compete in the decade to come: getting the right data, ex­tracting insights from that data, and identi­fying the platforms on which data can be used strategically. In short, every company should consider itself a data company with a differentiated platform.

Taking a leading role in the data revolution

The audit committee is uniquely po­sitioned to help navigate these changes through the company’s finance function, which is privy to data spanning sales met­rics, revenue, margin, marketing perfor­mance, valuation, manufacturing, and sup­ply chain vendors. Directors can help their chief financial officer and finance team take a leading role in the data revolution by ask­ing about the tools and technologies they’re using that are tied to the company’s strategy. How is the enterprise being digitized? What trends should be monitored using data an­alytics? Have data sets been identified that will provide insights to driving shareholder value?

Equally important is understanding whether the finance function has the data science skills needed today. In a recent sur­vey of finance and internal audit leaders, we found that while 86 percent of respon­dents use analytics, only about one-­third of them are using them at an intermediate or advanced level. Two­thirds are still using ba­sic, ad hoc analytics (like spreadsheets) or no analytics at all.

Catherine Engelbert

Cathy Engelbert
Chief executive officer
Deloitte

Did you find this useful?