For the past two years, we’ve brought members of ElevateData together over dinner each quarter to discuss the latest events and trends, to share practical knowledge, and to predict what the future holds for the world of data. Due to the special circumstances of 2020 and thanks to Zoom, we took ElevateData virtual for the first time last week.
This quarter’s ElevateData featured data leaders from companies like Stitchfix, LinkedIn, Zscaler, Fico, Bitly, Frontdoor, SVB, and Poshmark. The discussion was centered around the impact of COVID-19 to the data organization and their priorities in the foreseeable future.
Here are the top takeaways from our conversation:
Digital Transformation Acceleration
Many of the Global 2000 have been on the digital transformation journey for the past several years. COVID-19 has catalyzed and validated the importance of digital transformation. This was best said by Satya Nadella during Microsoft’s earnings call in April, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything”.
The ElevateData group noted that one of the drivers of this accelerated digital transformation has been that the unpredictable and rapidly evolving business environment has brought gaps in digital transformation journey to the front and center of critical decision making.
As a result, C-suite of many organizations have become fully aware of its value and reprioritized resources to accelerate digitization. Cara Dailey, Chief Data Officer at SVB, shared SVB’s story, saying “COVID-19 really hit the go button on digitization and the ability to have data at your fingertips immediately”. Cara and her team at SVB have long known that data is at the heart of SVB and how they, and financial institutions like SVB, interact with their clients. However, COVID-19 has helped to emphasize this existing priority for SVB’s C-suite.
Data Orgs Resizing
During the Financial Crisis of 2008, Data and Data Science organizations were a shadow of what they grew to in 2020 and during this crisis we’re seeing how they are being affected by a downturn. Some data orgs have continued to grow given their alignment with the C-level and the overall support for data-driven decision making. However, there are other data orgs that have been particularly affected by COVID-19 related layoffs. The group discussed a few potential reasons for this.
- Data and Data Scientists are expensive resources, particularly with the recent hype around data and data science.
- Many data and data science bets are longer-term bets. These projects can be deprioritized quickly in a crisis when due to uncertainty, immediate revenue, expense control and profit become the central focus.
- Given that a small (although growing) number of data executives are in C-suite, value of data in helping to navigate tough waters and prepare for when businesses would turn around is sometimes overlooked by management teams.
As data leaders continue to master succulently and proactively conveying the value of their organization to the C-suite, data teams will strengthen their positioning within the company. The key to conveying the data team’s value is this: Make it simple and don’t go too deep into the technical know-how. In addition, ensuring a good balance between near term and long-term value creation projects will also help data leaders strengthen the value perception of their teams.
Data will continue to drive decisions
While we had a thoughtful discussion on COVID-19 impact on Data orgs, the group was long-term optimistic about the value of data to all organizations. The only way to efficiently solve problems with high ROI is with data, analytics, and data science. In times of uncertainty and rapid changes, as expected in the Post-COVID world, data will be even more critical and will continue to grow alongside a digital-first mindset resulting from COVID-19. Things that worked previously might not scale with the spike in demand and the shift to distributed work. Data will continue to be a huge opportunity and the lifeline of many SaaS companies.
Data Orgs will become even more distributed
The group also expects a positive impact on data organizations from this forced experiment of remote work. Given that all organizations have had to learn to work around the constraints of offices and geographies, there will be more openness to recruiting data talent from a global talent pool. We expect that this in turn will drive the field of data forward. However, innovation is still required in remote working technologies to fully activate efficiencies of distributed data teams. While Zoom and Slack mitigate a lot of data teams collaboration challenges in the new world, at minimum, a good remote whiteboarding tool is needed to augment the remote experience of the data teams.
Thank you to all of the ElevateData members for joining us and passionately exchanging your ideas virtually during this challenging time.
If you are a Data leader, please let us know if you’d like to join this amazing group at the next ElevateData event!
Your ElevateData Founders,