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SSA Ideas Luncheon: Building a Data-Driven Culture

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In November 2015, SSA & Company (SSA) convened over 30 executives across a variety of industries – including financial services, industrials, media, and private equity – in New York City to discuss pragmatic ways of embedding data and advanced analytics into a company’s leadership and culture. The luncheon featured Deb Henretta, Former Group President of e-Business at Proctor & Gamble (P&G), as speaker. Dave Niles, President of SSA and G100 Companies, hosted the event and Jason Meil, Managing Director of New Products and Innovation at SSA, served as moderator.

At this meeting, we were delighted to hear insights from Deb Henretta, whose work transformed P&G’s business models to win in the digital economy, where nearly half of its $83 billion sales are transacted or influenced. Over her 30 years with P&G, Deb led a number of large global businesses, including the $20 billion Beauty business with more than 50 brands sold in over 150 countries worldwide. Deb also served as Group President of P&G Asia, where she harnessed the power of big data and advanced analytics to consistently grow top- and bottom-line results and more than double the size of the Asia business. Deb led the global turnaround of P&G’s Baby Care business, reversing a decade-long business decline and starting a growth trend that continues today.

Though most leaders are on their journey to a more data-centered company, few would rate their organizations and cultures as “highly developed” in advanced analytics. Before the discussion, participants completed a survey which measured how advanced they considered their companies in the areas of technology, skills and capabilities, leadership, data strategy, and execution infrastructure. We found a widely perceived immaturity in all five areas.

Our discussions revealed that leadership and culture typically prove the biggest barriers to embedding analytics. Below you will find a summary of key challenges leaders face, along with a few key takeaways leaders can employ to better leverage data and advanced analytics to transform their organizations.

Begin with a leadership team willing to embrace advanced analytics as a strategic choice.

Ensure that business leaders become well-versed in data analytics and that data scientists have strong business acumen.

  • Train managers in advanced analytics to lead their business and technology teams in identifying data analytics opportunities and executing them.
  • Architect your data scientists’ role around working with the business to use data to arrive at new and better decisions. For data scientists to deliver full value to your team, they need a strong understanding of the business, as well as communication and other relationship-building skills.

Build advanced analytics capabilities into the “DNA” of your entire business.

  • Often, some departments struggle with data analytics while other departments excel. Create communication and training programs to eliminate weak links in your chain and ensure that best practices get syndicated throughout the organization.
  • Besides having “war rooms” (dashboards designed to collect and display real-time business data), P&G has 250 embedded data analysts, dubbed “drivers.” They sit in business spheres every week and address questions from the management team.
    • Deb took this a step further, moving the war rooms to the leadership floor and focusing efforts on key business drivers.

It’s not about how much data you have, but how you use it.

Your own business produces valuable data; it’s just a matter of capturing and analyzing it. Start with the internal data. Then, incorporate external data on marketplace trends as a platform for deeper, more strategic conversations.

  • Leaders must ask what internal data sources the company uses today and what additional data is required to drive the most critical business decisions.
  • Many companies invest in new data infrastructure without effectively using internal or even publicly available data. For example, using publicly available data, Deb’s team found that consumers in areas with higher incidence of skin cancer were more likely to select moisturizers high in UV protection and adjusted their business strategy accordingly.

Tap the potential of people analytics. Consider using big data to identify the best employees for your company. An analysis that combines internal and external data sources to identify predictive attributes of your highest performers can strengthen recruiting and selection.

Encourage risk-averse middle managers to become data-focused. This pivotal cadre holds potential to either hinder or accelerate your cultural transformation. Many have been rewarded over long periods for doing things in traditional, well established ways.

  • Motivate and train middle managers to get them on board with big data. Assure them that learning to apply data is one of the best ways to ensure that algorithms won’t replace their jobs. Reward mindsets of curiosity, risk-taking, and experimentation.

Confront your own biases. As a data-focused leader, sometimes you must pursue a decision or path that conflicts with your gut instinct and/or customary practices. In these “moments of truth,” your leadership can set the tone for the entire company’s mindset.

  • In an instance when data suggested a previously unconsidered decision, Deb chose to trust the data with the majority of her market, while following her gut instincts for a single “control” market segment. Applying and relying upon the data set a strong example and dramatically benefitted the bottom line.

Download the full playbook here.


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