This piece originally ran in the 4th FinTech Capital, December 1, 2014, available for download here.
You’ve heard the common advice for instilling a data-centric culture: start at the top with executives who are passionate and visionary about how data can affect their bottom line; make sure data is accessible and shared freely within the company; and train employees on data analytics and foster data-centric thinking. All these overlook the fact that Financial Services companies already have strong IT departments, meaning they already have people who work in a data-centric culture and touch that data every day. It is necessary to teach everyone else the basics of data and how it is used, but don’t overlook the strong internal resource that is your own IT department. The IT department should no longer be relegated to dusty server rooms. Elevating the department will enable all the above advice to create a data-first company.
Increased involvement of the IT department across the business means that the CTO and CIO are more involved in company strategy and culture. It’s no secret that the CTO and CIO have long played second and third fiddle to the CEO, but those days are over. In a truly data-centric culture, the CTO and CIO have important voices and highly relevant experience. Their data-driven, technology-centered focus are essential as a company beings to rethink their internal processes. As the IT department interacts with other departments, so should the leaders in those departments sync and share strategy and best practices. Breaking these silos is difficult and needs to be done with utmost control and security, as sensitive financial data may be involved. But it is unavoidable for a culture of open data where more eyes and more analytics lead to more insight.
With the IT department interacting across the business, data flow increases organically. The old process meant asking the IT department for some data, doing analysis, and having to request different data for further analysis, and all without a complete “bird’s-eye view” of what data was actually available. Ideally, IT working with another department would provide the tools and training that would allow them to explore and analyze this data themselves. Which leads us to:
Ultimately, the IT department should be stakeholders and wield real strategic weight at any company making the transition to a stronger, more nuanced strategy based on enlightening data insight. The evolution to data-first thinking does not happen overnight. It requires change at all levels. Compliance will always be first in mind for FS companies, and they must be ready for the challenges of storing ALL data for regulatory demands. But you should not ignore one of our greatest tools, and the elevation of the IT department should be a pillar in any plan moving towards a culture of data.