A Board perspective on the role of the Chief Data Officer - meet Anne Thorsvedt Sjöberg

Anne Thorsvedt Sjöberg och Vanessa Eriksson

Meet Anne Thorsvedt Sjöberg, Member of the Board at Clas Ohlson and Vice President, Marketing Effectiveness and Insights at Electrolux - Switzerland.

With over 25 years of experience, covering most of the world, Anne has experience in Market Information, Business Intelligence & Insights in developed and developing markets at P&G, Kraft Foods, Mondelez and currently at Electrolux and Clas Ohlson.

What are your areas of focus today?

My focus in both organizations is about developing consumer centric strategies.

In my Board capacity with Clas Ohlson, it’s a consumer centric transformation supported by informed choices and data.

In the case of Electrolux, its building a data science strategy and securing that we are well equipped and have the capabilities to work with a consumer centric way of thinking supported by the right data so that we make fact based decisions.

Here to discuss the role of the Chief Data Officer, Anne what does your views  about the role?

There is definitely lots of value in having a Chief Data Officer but I think one needs to show what (long term) value it would bring and what synergies from thinking with the holistic data perspective can be found.  I believe that most Board Members or Leadership teams have not yet seen or understood the value that the role would bring.

Many boards and listed companies today operate with short time frames. I think the Chief Data Officer is definitely the right thing to have, however it needs to be clearly defined alongside a Marketing Officer or Product Development or R&D role because they go hand-in-hand.

Should the Chief Data Officer support  the ‘growth agenda’?

There is less head space and whoever can figure out how to use the data in the right way, in such a way that it supports the growth agenda and strategies will win.  Maybe that is the Chief Data Officer, but the challenge usually is that the growth agenda sits somewhere else and individual regions, sectors, business units have their separate business goals that are not necessarily linked to a data supported growth agenda.

How could the Chief Data Officer  help business leaders to make informed decsions?

It’s hard to see how data in itself is going to support decision making, the Chief Data Officer needs to focus on what the insights are that come from the data - that is going to support decisions and going to help us grow while delivering shareholder value.

There are several factor at play - you need to have the data and the knowledge of your consumers and your product users or owners to be able to formulate what are the right marketing activities and the right efficiencies, what are the investments etc.

What do you see is the biggest challenge in being customer centric?

From my perspective many companies are coming at it from one lens at a time or one moment at a time or a decision point, best case being consumer and the worst case being a function that is looking at digitization and data from their one data point. When in reality you need to bring it all together to optimize and take a holistic consumer perspective.  And if you don’t do that, then you are sub-optimizing. The fundamental challenge lies in really grasping how big of a change this is and therefore how big of an investment that is going to be required to create that holistic solution rather than multiple small solutions that don’t connect to one another and contribute to a full consumer perspective.

What’s a hot topic for a Member of the Board?

With the speed of change and the digitization that’s happening, timing is critical, it’s an urgent question, it is high on the agenda and companies are levelling off or saturating in their growth. Look at the retail sector area - extremely competitive! And what’s happened to the retailers and companies that haven’t reacted appropriately, made some of the bets and thought long term?

At Board Meetings, strategic direction and decisions like to plunge into a new market, proceed with the existing etc. are taken either on global trends or internal based on data/information provided from the organization.  As Board Member what can you tell us about the data that you receive?

As a Board Member one usually receives very well prepared multi-lens reports that lay out the opportunity areas and the strategy implications that one can drill into and understand.  It’s the pace of change that is so high today that new ways of all sorts of uncovering data and crawling data sets and systems that you leverage to bring it together, are changing quickly.  The challenge for any organization is trying to stay on top of it all, and more importantly being able to act.

There are a lot of organizations that are establishing Data & Analytics Hubs – what would your advice to them be?

I see an advantage in building a centralized Data & Analytics hub because investment is needed in this area. To get these investments heavily influence is needed.  There is a risk of fragmentation when you are decentralized because you will be making investment decisions and identifying sources of information needed (it can be market shares, social listening etc.) However, if it’s in a limited part of the world only, you will have to build the capabilities of handling all these sources which is straining on the organization.

“If creating a Data & Analytics Hub does not come from a CEO then you have pockets of Data & Analytic hubs sprouting in the organization”.

I think its easier being a centralized organization when you want those big investments.  This unless you can find a way in a decentralized organization to elevate the areas that require attention in particular.  It depends on the culture and the Board and the CEO, if there is a willingness to make that investment at the expense of shareholder value.

How much should a CEO be pushed to focus on Data & Analytics in their organization?

A capable and savy CEO would understand that they need to build capabilities and surround themselves with people who have skills that can deliver results.

You can tell a business leader to deliver a business result but you have to show the benefits of a big infrastructure – or decide to separately invest in that and equip the organization with it.  If the KPI’s with your organization are to deliver short term growth then doing the long term investment proves difficult.

Leaders who are aware, see the challenge in investment those who are not aware probably don’t know what good could look like and the third is that very few people have visibility into everything that is going on. In large organizations, a business leader knows well what’s going on in his on her business unit but nowhere else and does not necessarily see that multiple parts or units are working on addressing similar issues or trying to accomplish the same thing but in many different places.

The structure of the business model is going to decide the tone of that and the benefits any business leader can see.

What’s the biggest benefit of working with data today?

Decision making!  Provided you have access to all the data sets!  To me the biggest benefit is that previously what took weeks to gather will now be at our fingertips.

Kontakta oss

Alexander Fritsch

Alexander Fritsch

Digital Strategy, Data & Analytics, PwC Sverige

Tel 0729-97 26 02

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