91 per cent of African business leaders strongly believed data helps create a strategic advantage in strengthening their level of customer trust as well as their bottom lines. This is according to IBM’s 20th edition of its bi-annual C-Suite Study, “Build Your Trust Advantage,” released yesterday.

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The study polled nearly 380 C-level executives across Africa to examine how companies are achieving market leadership by emphasising trust in their use and sharing of data.

The study, conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) in cooperation with Oxford Economics, found that market leadership is most frequently attained when an organisation establishes a high level of trust in the data sourced from its customers, its own business processes, and across its partner ecosystem.

The study also revealed that an extraordinary set of business leaders – dubbed “Torchbearers” – understand that transparency, reciprocity and accountability with regard to data are critical ingredients for earning trust among key stakeholders. The businesses led by this group of leaders were found to be outperforming their peers in revenue, growth, profitability, innovation and managing change.

“Leading organisations that have put trust at the core of the way they use data with their customers are creating massive opportunities for greater success,” said Ian Fletcher, Director – IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV). “Today’s businesses need to be able to earn trust from their customers while also trusting the data from their own processes and ecosystems; or they will quickly fall behind their peers.”

While the study focused on the need for transparency in how companies handle customer data, it also highlighted the importance of trusting data that’s created within an organization. Standout business leaders were found to be taking great pains to ensure that the data generated within their organizations was accurate and clean, so they could leverage it to make the best-informed business decisions, such as developing new business models and entering new markets.

82 percent of leaders surveyed also said they had deep trust in data for use in perfecting the quality and speed of the decisions they made. 79 percent extensively use data to develop new business models (114 percent more their peers), while 85 percent use data to make informed decisions on entering new markets while 73 percent of C-suite executives believe that automation of decision-making processes will increase in their industry over the next 2-3 years.

The study also revealed the importance for organizations to create trustworthy data ecosystems. Data that simply stayed within the organisation without being shared was more likely to grow irrelevant. Leading organizations were found to be liberating their data while simultaneously de-risking data exchanges in a shared ecosystem – allowing the data to circulate widely, without sacrificing their responsibility to secure permissions and safeguard it.

Standout business leaders were also found to be ahead of their peers in acquiring and sharing data extensively with network partners, as well as in integrating new modes of monetization into their data strategies.

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