Data and regulation may be important issues for chief data officers to discuss with their boards, but a discussion panel at the recent FIMA Europe conference agreed that ‘data’ and ‘regulation’ should take a back seat in that conversation. Instead, CDOs need to communicate about ‘business outcomes’.
“The topic of data management is relatively complex to get across in a meaningful way to people who are not involved in the topic,” said Graham Smith (pictured), chief data officer at RBS.
- Correct means the hygiene work, quantification of data quality and remediation of data
- Connect means bringing that data together so it’s available for people to use
- Create – “the exciting bit” – means generating better customer insight and so on
“Those three views of the world are quite easy and intuitive to understand. And there’s value in each of them,” Smith said.
In doing a pitch to then-CEO Stephen Hester about why data matters , Smith said, “We had a conversation and didn’t mention data until the last two minutes. We talked about business outcomes and told them about some problems and the value of fixing those problems - and then said, “By the way all of those are related to making your data better.” So ‘business outcomes’ are the most important way of having the data conversation.”
Peter Serenita (pictured, right), group chief data officer with HSBC agreed, and explained why data professionals struggle to understand why other people don’t “get it”: “Part of the problem is we feel it’s so obvious that we don’t have to communicate it. If there is takeaway it is simply, simplify the message: forget all the things you actually know – in fact, it would be better if you just woke up with amnesia one morning and said, ‘I’m going to communicate outcomes.’”
He added: “It’s a never-ending thing: don’t think it’s ‘once and done’. It’s continual reinforcement of the message.”
Smith said that “One of the most powerful ways to get across the data story is to tell individual stories that are a minute subset of what we’re trying to achieve. The more of those stories you can collect and bring out at an appropriate point, the easier your communication gets. People latch onto very real things.” For example, RBS managed to pre-call many people during the recent floods and say that if they had an insurance claim to call a particular special line that had been set up overnight. “We knew who to call because all the postcode data was good. Did it make us any more money? No, but it made the customer experience better.”
Smith addressed the particular problem of communicating about regulatory issues: “To make it real to people, have a story that says, ‘This is not about that thing that we’ve all heard about – BCBS 239 – it’s about good data management.’ However, there are 16 or 20 bits of regulation that all demand the same things, really. If you’ve ever taken the time to go through them and decompose them you’ll find they’re all asking for a fairly common set of outcomes. Our policy reflects that but that’s not the way to communicate the demands of regulation. It’s not about regulations, it’s about doing it for positive reasons.”