CXOs still trust gut instinct over data as data driven cultures easier said than done, says Alation report

The biggest takeaway is that 65% of data professionals said their company's C-level executives ignore data when making business decisions.

Data driven enterprises are more about culture than technology and nearly two-thirds of CEOs are making decisions based on gut instinct, according to a report commissioned by Alation.

Alation, which offers enterprise data intelligence software, commissioned Wakefield Research to quantify data cultures as well as whether organizations are truly data driven. The report features the Data Culture Index (DCI), which scores enterprises on the ability to find, analyze and interpret data and govern it. Wakefield Research surveyed 300 data analytics leaders at businesses with more than 2,500 employees in US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Here's a look at the DCI.

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The biggest takeaway is that 65% of data professionals said their company's C-level executives ignore data when making business decisions. Why? CXOs think their gut instinct is the differentiator, according to these data pros. There is also the trust factor, 90% of respondents said C-level executives at least sometimes question the data they use.

Aaron Kalb, co-founder and chief data officer at Alation, explained: 

No CXO says 'my strategy will be to ignore reality.' When CXOs ignore an analytical conclusion it's typically because they don't trust that the data truly reflects reality in some way: they worry that the source data is low-quality or out-of-date; or that the sample is too small or the historical frame used is not relevant to the decision for the future; or that some of the assumptions or calculations or classifications that went into the analysis and interpretation are wrong, etc.

We need to break the downward spiral where every data quality issue irreparably undermines the habit of being data-driven and even executive faith in the concept.

Also: Alation branches out from data catalogs to analytics stewardship

What's unclear is whether the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the data equation. Fifty eight percent of respondents said C-level executives are relying much more or somewhat more on data to make decisions. "If a company copy-and-pasted virtually any aspect of their playbook from 2019 for use in 2020, they'd be totally screwed," said Kalb. "We live in a different world that looks very unlike the past, so we need to ditch assumptions and see what our sensors are telling us about how things have changed."

Among the key findings:

  • 12% of companies scored an A on data culture development with almost two-thirds scoring a C, D or F.
  • 44% of respondents have a Chief Data & Analytics Officer, 23% have a Chief Analytics Officer and 19% have a Chief Data Officer.
  • Data quality, data governance and advanced analytics were the top three priorities among organizations.
  • Operational efficiency was the top business driver for data and analytics efforts for 55% of respondents with customer intimacy cited by 48%.
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