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Making data a board agenda issue
By Cathy Engelbert
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 US, 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.
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.