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Strategic use of business data is about more than just getting a better grip on financials. It’s about making informed business decisions on everything from skills and knowledge to efficiency and workflow. 

Data-driven decision making has been identified by chief information officers (CIOs) as a top priority for businesses over the next five years. Yet, the majority of U.S. and Canadian businesses still don’t lean strongly on data insights to shape their decisions and support their strategy, according to recent Randstad research.

IT leaders have an important role in helping businesses unlock and make better use of their data. And the investments and resources they direct toward building this data strategy will have a direct impact on the ongoing success of the business.

Here are three priorities CIOs should consider to help their companies make the most of the opportunity data offers.

1. create data you can use and trust

“Data is just data – it’s what you do with it that’s critical,” says Bill Bickford, Principal – Data Management and Business Intelligence at Randstad. And here CIOs can shape the agenda.

They need to put a focus on ensuring their company is collecting clean data, using automation where possible to better harness it and improve its quality. 

A commonly used acronym about data is that it needs to be FAIR – findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. Bearing these attributes in mind will affect how companies source, store and format their data. But consider also adding ‘consumable’ to this list – if people around the business don’t understand data, they won’t use it and they won’t trust it.

“Companies need to treat their data as a strategic asset to the organization. But it is also about the transformation of that data into consumable information. It’s no good having billions and billions of records if they are not in a usable or consumable format,” says Bickford.

A related problem is that many companies – particularly larger ones – have invested in multiple technology tools but all the data they generate is housed in different systems which don’t talk to each other. 

“CIOs need to be able to have a holistic view and collate all of these disparate sources into a single pane of glass to make informed business decisions,” says Jim Larkin, Principal – Strategy and Architecture for Randstad. “This clean data set will in turn allow them to make decisions on areas such as automation, and improve workflow and collaboration.”

2. build a data-fit team

Although many IT leaders have their company’s technology roadmap plotted out, actually delivering on it requires having the right people, not just the right technology. This is where data insights can be translated to competitive advantage.

Using this roadmap as a starting point, data can inform what talent is needed when and where in the business in order to meet the objectives. Used strategically, it can help identify what skills exist in the business already and where the gaps are. And when it comes to reskilling and upskilling it can help identify where complementary skill sets can be used to best advantage.

This is particularly relevant against a backdrop of ongoing talent shortages. With many technology skills in high demand and short supply, planning ahead will allow companies to have the right skills at the right time.

Partnering with external parties may also help bring in the skill sets you need. In this way you can achieve that optimum scenario of pairing technical knowledge with a business understanding.

3. create value through data

Given how pervasive technology has become in businesses, it is more necessary than ever that CIOs align their investments and strategy with the objectives of their organization. Here, data can help link business use to value creation and helps identify wins. This makes IT leaders a powerful voice within company management.

CIOs also hold the keys to getting the company on board with data-driven decision making more generally. Data storytelling will help companies make decisions more quickly and effectively, often accelerating innovation. Indeed, Randstad’s Talent Trends 2023 report highlighted the opportunity companies can unlock by investing in technology, allowing them to take advantage of market uncertainty.

With the current economic environment leading to more constrained budgets, many companies may be reassessing their priorities. However, strategic investments in data and automation are likely to deliver returns – business intelligence is what allows you to ‘do more with less.’

“Truly data-driven companies invest significantly in both the people and technology required to harness the full power of data and information,” Bickford says. “Heavy investments in data quality, data curation, stewardship, and cataloging will pay dividends later as data is viewed as a trustable source providing insights to base critical decisions on.

For more insight into data-driven decision making, read the full white paper.