How Finance Leaders Can Transform Business Data from the Inside

3 Ways to Modernize Your Data Governance Strategy

Finance leaders are entrenched in a business and geopolitical landscape that even the best education and meticulous certifications couldn’t have prepared them to face. The very nature of money is changing. Just look at this story from the World Economic Forum, as an example: “Venezuela may be on the verge of forgoing their Bolivar currency” with governments considering Bitcoin as a replacement. Meanwhile, India has stopped circulating physical money as an aggressive push to eradicate financial fraud that has been endemic to the country’s economy.

Accountability, for data governance, needs to be to customers.

On the North American continent, throughout the European Union, and in the United Kingdom, financial regulations are changing due to new Know Your Customer (KYC) and data compliance requirements.


Finance leaders are now finding themselves in a new role as corporate intrapreneurs who have a direct stake in leading new technologies that have a direct impact to customer acquisition, IT, revenue generation, marketing, and other cross-functional operations. Actually, that last sentence was an understatement—finance leaders, having extreme visibility into their organizations, are at the center of it all. And being at the center means giving all teams visibility into how your company’s cross-functional data strategy meets the needs of a market landscape in which there is more change than steadiness.

Finance leaders are now finding themselves in a new role as corporate intrapreneurs.

Dun & Bradstreet recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore this challenge in a study that explores what modern finance leadership looks like at 250 organizations with $150M or more in revenue. The study concluded that a customer-obsessed focus is crucial to the future of the finance function. But disparate data, organizational silos, and lack of consistent metrics stand in the way of creating a finance-driven strategy that keeps multiple organizational arms on track.


Modernization: The Next Stage of Data Governance

The goal of a data governance strategy is to provide information, insight, and sources that are well-understood, consistent, validated, and appropriately published and shared.

Most likely, you already have one. In the study, 95% of finance leaders in the study acknowledged data governance programs as a core part of the business. Data governance is already a priority. The challenge that teams are facing is the ability to make information, once centered to finance teams, available to others.

You can think of modernization as both a process and an outcome. Effectiveness is contingent upon collaboration among technology management, data and analytics professionals, line-of business data owners, and executive management. Data governance programs must not only play a critical role in business operations and planning; information, insight, and sources need to be well understood, consistent, validated, and appropriately shared across the organization.

3 Tips for Building an Effective Data Governance Strategy

1. Adopt Customer-Centric Vernacular

Business is about driving value to people. Even among B2B companies, consumers are always the ultimate key beneficiaries. Finance leaders, in addition to all teams, are responsible for communicating a story about an organization’s health.

Customer obsession requires continual investment in a variety of data and delivery platforms as well as analytics tools. These technologies will span disparate company arms. Finance leaders need to be the anchor. Accountability, for data governance, needs to be to customers.

2. Build an Effective Data Governance Reporting Structure

Innovation Leader recently explored what R&D reporting structures look like at progressive organizations. In very few cases (5.7%) was a single executive at the helm of this operation. 

With 71.7% of R&D reporting structures being overseen by multiple executives or a committee, it’s clear that finance leaders need to develop cross-functional knowledge and empathy. A governance structure is an accountability structure.

3. Educate, Inspire, and Empower Employees

Finance-inspired leadership requires cross-functional teams to understand what a “data governance” strategy is. Depending on your organization’s culture, you might even want to call “data governance” something else. Good ideas come from all parts of your organization. Everyone should feel empowered to give ideas and share feedback.

Here are some strategies that finance leaders can adopt from R&D teams (after all, “data governance” is itself a finance operation). Innovation Leader cites the following tactics that people are using:

  • “Immersion experiences” that include tours of startups and accelerators that the company is involved with, in addition to innovation R&D Labs.
  • More freedom for all team members to experiment with ideas and tinker (asking less permission).
  • Using prototypes and case studies to “show” rather than dictate what you’re doing
  • Communicating like a human (attention-grabbing, fun infographics).
  • Continued updates “from the field” in terms of anecdotes and progress improvements, to keep teams engaged interested.

To learn more about how modern finance leaders are embracing data to inspire customer obsession, download “The Customer-Obsessed Finance Leader in the Age of Data.