04 Nov Leadership Qualities Required in the Age of Big Data
What seems to get lost in the world of business and Big Data is that everyone, including managers and employees must act as analysts. The best leaders behind Big Data understand this need. They may not be the best analysts, nor the best business managers, nor do they know the best technologies. The best leader know how to successfully combine analytics, business and technology as an organization to ensure the right data gets to the right person at the right time – and do so quickly.
Qualifications for Analytics Leaders
Despite the fact that everyone is an analysts, the leader of a Big Data initiative should have some understanding of the field. However, extensive training in statistical methods may be too much if a person cannot relate the numbers to the immediate business. Many data projects fail because the statisticians take too long to figure out what the problem is and how of solve it. Taking a stand in measurements and evolving as more data becomes available is a better approach even in Big Data.
What a leader must focus on is demonstrating how the business can be data-driven. He must understand what data everyone in the company is using or should be using and how. He has to have conversations around the data, specifically to understand how people are interpreting it. He needs to create a culture around seeking and using data effectively. He needs to makes incremental changes in how data is managed and delivered to the data consumer. They pull people together the necessary business knowledge, technology expertise, and statistical modeling skills.
Required Leadership Traits
Rolling out a new Big Data initiative requires big change for most companies. Old paradigms must be adjusted, assumptions tossed and a commitment must be instilled in the data. Most people resist change: their senses are heightened, their sensitivities are attacked and begin to doubt the value of the change. Leaders know how to effectively navigate people through the change. They lay out the analytics agenda such that everyone understands how data an e used to drive growth and revenue. They mentor and train analysts and decision makers; and encourage the same across the entire organization. They understand the needs of their analysts and business professionals.
Most leadership occurs at an emotional level. A situation arises and the reaction, good or bad, is typically the result of gut instinct. While the response is quick, it is not always appropriate. The problem is that gut instinct is honed over time and experience. As a result, decisions are made based on past experience and not current facts. Data scientists on the other hand, will pour over the data, inquire about every variable to finally reach the best possible response for that situation at that time. While the response is more appropriate than gut instinct, it effort to analyze often takes too long. A good data leader must possess the best of both worlds and drive this across the organization.
Most companies know that data will improve their decision-making and competitiveness, yet few have operational programs in Big Data. Lack of proper leadership is the greatest issue for these companies. They need people who are savvy and driven to show the value of data in business. They know statistics, but they also know the business. Better yet, they know how to get people in the organization to understand both. These leaders are not afraid to ask questions, even about their own assumptions.