Competing With Data & Analytics
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Tuck Rickards has been a financial analyst, a consultant and a CEO. He taps into all his work experience as head of the digital transformation practice at Russell Reynolds, a prominent recruiting firm.
Rickards, who joined Russell Reynolds in 1998 to help build its Internet search practice, says the last three years are “truly different” from what’s come before. “It’s the first time in my business career that enabling technology [social media, the cloud, mobile, data] is so cheap and so ubiquitous.” This technology shift led the company to establish its digital transformation practice, which includes big data and analytics.
He spoke with MIT Sloan Management Review contributing editor Michael Fitzgerald from the Russell Reynolds office in downtown Boston.
You’ve argued that very few companies have digital leadership. What about analytics/data leadership?
There are a lot of companies that have analytics capabilities scattered across the company. When you look at, strategically, a Fortune 500 company and a full-on digital transformation agenda, you get a picture of a company where the end state is a very agile organization directly connected in real time to customers. On-the-fly with your customers, integrating real-time data, sensor data, whatever else — in a real-time, dynamic relationship, right? That’s kind of an end state that companies are still iterating towards. There are very few companies at that level.
These companies have a hierarchy of roles — or really, capabilities. The chief data officer’s job is to get all the stuff in one place. In a big enterprise, this enablement piece is harder than it seems. The CDO normally has reporting lines directly to the technology team, the CIO. Normally, there’s a whole bunch of catch-up work to do around data integration, creating meta layers and getting access to the data that you want, cleaning it up and getting it in a static form, which is very different than getting it in a dynamic form. So, there are roles and capabilities we see around chief data officer types.
At the chief analytics officer level, which is more around what you do with the data, there are obviously pockets of analytics capabilities already on the business side, the finance side and marketing side. Increasingly, companies want to create a cross-company analytics capability that looks for opportunities to leverage company-wide data in terms of company-wide insights and ways that drive the business.