Gartner: How leaders can improve risk culture in data and analytics teams

Geopolitical, regulatory, economic, and technological factors have combined in a perfect storm, causing disruption among many organisations and forcing senior business leaders to prioritise risk management. Yet, for many data & analytics (D&A) leaders, risk management is not top of mind. This year’s Gartner’s Chief Data and Analytics Officer (CDAO) Agenda Survey found that only 10% of participating CDAOs in the private sector (8% in government) expect to focus personal time on managing risk aspects of D&A in the next 12 to 18 months.

However, nearly one-third of non-executive board members stated risk management is among their top strategic priorities for 2024 and 2025, with a gap now emerging between what business leaders in organisations expect, and what D&A leaders are positioned to deliver. Closing this gap requires action on two fronts, first through building better D&A risk management practices, and through creating a better risk-engaged culture in D&A teams.

1. Understanding the impact of information risk on business outcomes

While organisations are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives, the failure of D&A teams to effectively engage with information risk poses a significant threat to business outcomes. Too often, D&A teams view risk as something to be mitigated or avoided entirely, leading to missed opportunities and increased exposure to poorly understood risks. To address this challenge, foster a culture where risk is seen as integral to decision-making rather than an obstacle to be circumvented completely.

To achieve this, analyse how information risk impacts specific business outcomes. By understanding the relationship between business objectives, processes, and associated risks, leaders can better align D&A initiatives with the overarching organisational goals.

However, simply understanding the impact of risk is not enough; the existing risk culture within teams should also be evaluated. Gartner says D&A teams often exhibit a poor risk-engaged culture, typically viewing risk as something to mitigate or avoid completely. This mindset not only limits the potential for innovation and growth but also exposes organisations to greater business risks. By assessing individual and collective attitudes towards risk, leaders can identify areas for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance risk engagement.

2. Evaluating and enhancing the risk culture within D&A teams

This evaluation process involves analysing the behaviours of team members and their perceptions of risk within the organisation itself. This can be achieved through using a structured approach to assess risk engagement, such as scoring team members against key characteristics of a risk-engaged culture. By collecting and analysing these responses, leaders can gain valuable insights into the existing risk culture within their teams and identify areas for improvement.

Once there are identified areas for improvement, establish a plan to enhance the risk-engaged culture within teams. This may involve a combination of awareness-building initiatives, skill development programmes, and organisational changes to embed risk management into D&A processes. By leveraging existing governance frameworks and collaborating with key stakeholders, look to achieve and drive meaningful cultural transformation that aligns with the business objectives.

As leaders in the field of D&A, you are responsible for fostering a culture that embraces risk as an inherent part of the decision-making process. By analysing the impact of information risk on business outcomes, evaluating our existing risk culture, and implementing targeted strategies for improvement, you can ensure teams are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of today’s digital landscape and drive sustainable business growth among your organisation.

Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis on D&A trends at the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit, taking place 13-15 May in London.

Saul Judah

Saul Judah is a VP Analyst within the Analytics Apps and Governance team focusing on information governance, data quality and information strategy. Mr. Judah works with Gartner clients on establishing and running effective information governance programs and creating and delivering data quality strategies.


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