Cloud Platforms: Strategic Enabler for AI led Transformation
CIOs & CTOs have been toying with the idea of cloud adoption at scale for more than a decade since the first corporate experiments with external cloud platforms were conceptualized, and the verdict is long in on their business value. Companies that adopt the cloud well bring new capabilities to market more quickly, innovate more easily, and scale more efficiently—while also reducing technology risk.
Unfortunately, the verdict is still out on what constitutes a successful cloud implementation to actually capture that value. Most CIOs and CTOs default to traditional implementation models that may have been successful in the past but that make it almost impossible to capture the real value from the cloud. Defining the cloud opportunity too narrowly with siloed business initiatives, such as next-generation application hosting or data platforms, almost guarantees failure. That’s because no design consideration is given to how the organization will need to operate holistically in cloud, increasing the risk of disruption from nimbler attackers with modern technology platforms that enable business agility and innovation.
Companies that reap value from cloud platforms treat their adoption as a business- AI led transformation by doing three things:
- Focusing investments on business domains where cloud can enable increased revenues and improved margins
2. Selecting a technology and sourcing model that aligns with business strategy and risk constraints
3. Developing and implementing an operating model that is oriented around the cloud
CIOs and CTOs need to drive cloud adoption, but, given the scale and scope of change required to exploit this opportunity fully, they also need support and air cover from the rest of the management team.
Using cloud to enable AI led transformation : Only 14 percent of companies launching AI transformations have seen sustained and material performance improvements. Why? Technology execution capabilities are often not up to the task. Outdated AI technology environments make change expensive. Quarterly release cycles make it hard to tune AI capabilities to changing market demands. Rigid and brittle infrastructures choke on the data required for sophisticated analytics.
Operating in the cloud can reduce or eliminate many of these issues. Exploiting cloud services and tooling, however, requires change across all of IT and many business functions as well—in effect, a different business-technology model.
AI led transformation success requires CIOs and tech leaders to do three things :
1. Focus cloud investments in business domains where cloud platforms can enable increased revenues and improved margins:
The vast majority of the value the cloud generates comes from increased agility, innovation, and resilience provided to the business with sustained velocity. In most cases, this requires focusing cloud adoption on embedding re usability and composability so investment in modernizing can be rapidly scaled across the rest of the organization. This approach can also help focus programs on where the benefits matter most, rather than scrutinizing individual applications for potential cost savings
Faster time to market: Cloud-native companies can release code into production hundreds or thousands of times per day using end-to-end automation. Even traditional enterprises have found that automated cloud platforms allow them to release new capabilities daily, enabling them to respond to market demands and quickly test what does and doesn’t work. As a result, companies that have adopted cloud platforms report that they can bring new capabilities to market about 20 to 40 percent faster.
Ability to create innovative business offerings: Each of the major cloud service providers offers hundreds of native services and marketplaces that provide access to third-party ecosystems with thousands more. These services rapidly evolve and grow and provide not only basic infrastructure capabilities but also advanced functionality such as facial recognition, natural-language processing, quantum computing, and data aggregation.
Reduced risk: Cloud clearly disrupts existing security practices and architectures but also provides a rare opportunity to eliminate vast operational overhead to those that can design their platforms to consume cloud securely. Taking advantage of the multi billion-dollar investments CSPs have made in security operations requires a cyber-first design that automatically embeds robust standardized authentication, hardened infrastructure, and a resilient interconnected data-center availability zone.
Efficient scalability: Cloud enables companies to automatically add capacity to meet surge demand (in response to increasing customer usage, for example) and to scale out new services in seconds rather than the weeks it can take to procure additional on-premises servers. This capability has been particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the massive shift to digital channels created sudden and unprecedented demand peaks.
2. Select a technology, sourcing, and migration model that aligns with business and risk constraints
Decisions about cloud architecture and sourcing carry significant risk and cost implications—to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for large companies. The wrong technology and sourcing decisions will raise concerns about compliance, execution success, cyber security, and vendor risk—more than one large company has stopped its cloud program cold because of multiple types of risk. The right technology and source decisions not only mesh with the company’s risk appetite but can also “bend the curve” on cloud-adoption costs, generating support and excitement for the program across the management team.
If CIOs or CTOs make those decisions based on the narrow criteria of IT alone, they can create significant issues for the business. Instead, they must develop a clear picture of the business strategy as it relates to technology cost, investment, and risk.
3. Change operating models to capture cloud value
Capturing the value of migrating to the cloud requires changing both how IT works and how IT works with the business. The best CIOs and CTOs follow a number of principles in building a cloud-ready operating model:
Make everything a product : To optimize application functionality and mitigate technical debt,CIOs need to shift from “IT projects” to “products”—the technology-enabled offerings used by customers and employees. Most products will provide business capabilities such as order capture or billing. Automated as-a-service platforms will provide underlying technology services such as data management or web hosting. This approach focuses teams on delivering a finished working product rather than isolated elements of the product. This more integrated approach requires stable funding and a “product owner” to manage it.
Integrate with business. Achieving the speed and agility that cloud promises requires frequent interaction with business leaders to make a series of quick decisions. Practically, business leaders need to appoint knowledgeable decision makers as product owners for business-oriented products. These are people who have the knowledge and authority to make decisions about how to sequence business functionality as well as the understanding of the journeys of their “customers.”
Drive cloud skill sets across development teams. Traditional centers of excellence charged with defining configurations for cloud across the entire enterprise quickly get overwhelmed. Instead, top CIOs invest in delivery designs that embed mandatory self-service and co-creation approaches using abstracted, unified ways of working that are socialized using advanced training programs (such as “train the trainer”) to embed cloud knowledge in each agile tribe and even squad.
How Technology Leaders can join forces with leadership to drive AI led transformation
Given the economic and organizational complexity required to get the greatest benefits from the cloud, heads of infrastructure, CIOs, and CTOs need to engage with the rest of the leadership team. That engagement is especially important in the following areas:
Technology funding. Technology funding mechanisms frustrate cloud adoption—they prioritize features that the business wants now rather than critical infrastructure investments that will allow companies to add functionality more quickly and easily in the future. Each new bit of tactical business functionality built without best-practice cloud architectures adds to your technical debt—and thus to the complexity of building and implementing anything in the future. CIOs and CTOs need support from the rest of the management team to put in place stable funding models that will provide resources required to build underlying capabilities and remediate applications to run efficiently, effectively, and safely in the cloud.
Business-technology collaboration. Getting value from cloud platforms requires knowledgeable product owners with the power to make decisions about functionality and sequencing. That won’t happen unless the CEO and relevant business-unit heads mandate people in their organizations to be product owners and provide them with decision-making authority.
Engineering talent. Adopting the cloud requires specialized and sometimes hard-to-find technical talent—full-stack developers, data engineers, cloud-security engineers, identity and access-management specialists, cloud engineers, and site-reliability engineers. Unfortunately, some policies put in place a decade ago to contain IT costs can get in the way of on boarding cloud talent. Companies have adopted policies that limit costs per head and the number of senior hires, for example, which require the use of outsourced resources in low-cost locations. Collectively, these policies produce the reverse of what the cloud requires, which is a relatively small number of highly talented and expensive people who may not want to live in traditionally low-cost IT locations. CIOs and CTOs need changes in hiring and location policies to recruit and retain the talent needed for success in the cloud.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for companies to adopt AI led business models. Only cloud platforms can provide the required agility, scalability, and innovative capabilities required for this transition. While there have been frustrations and false starts in the enterprise cloud journey, companies can dramatically accelerate their progress by focusing cloud investments where they will provide the most business value and building cloud-ready operating models.
Best Practices to Accelerate & Transform Analytics Adoption in the Cloud
Reimagining analytics in the cloud enables enterprises to achieve greater agility, increase scalability and optimize costs. But organizations take different paths to achieving their goals. The best way to proceed will depend on data environment and business objectives. There are two best practices to maximize analytics adoption in the cloud:
• Cloud Data Warehouse, Data Lake, and Lakehouse Transformation: Strategically moving data warehouse and data lake to the cloud over time and adopting a modern, end-to-end data infrastructure for AI, and machine learning projects.
• New Cloud Data Warehouse and Data Lake: Start small and fast and grow as needed by spinning up a new cloud data warehouse or cloud data lake. The same guidance applies whether implementing new data warehouses and data lakes in the cloud for the first time, or doing so for an individual department or line of business.
As cloud adoption grows, most organizations will eventually want to modernize their enterprise analytics infrastructure entirely in the cloud. With the transformation pathway, rebuild everything to take advantage of the most modern cloud-based enterprise data warehouse, data lake, and lake house technology to end up in the strongest position long term. But migrate data and workloads from existing on-premises enterprise data warehouse and data lake to the cloud incrementally, over time. This approach allows enterprises to be strategic while minimizing disruption. Enterprises can take the time to carefully evaluate data and bring over only what is needed, which makes this a less risky approach. It also enables more complex analysis of data, using artificial intelligence, machine learning. The combination of a cloud data warehouse and data lake allows to manage the data necessary for analytics by providing economical scalability across compute and storage that is not possible with an on-premises infrastructure. And it enables to incorporate new types of data, from IoT sensors, social media, text, and more, into your analysis to gain new insights.
For this pathway ,enterprises need an intelligent, automated data platform that delivers a number of critical capabilities. It should handle new data sources, accommodate AI and machine learning projects, support new processing engines, deliver performance at a massive scale, and offer serverless scale up/scale down capabilities. As with a brand-new cloud data warehouse or data lake, enterprises need cloud-native, best-of-breed data integration, data quality, and metadata management to ensure maximizing the value of cloud analytics. Once the data is in the cloud, organization can provide users with self-service access to this data so they can more easily and seamlessly create reports or take swift decision. Subsequently , this transformation pathway gives organizations an end-to-end modern infrastructure for next-generation cloud analytics
Lines of business increasingly rely on analytics to improve processes and business impact. For example, sales and marketing no longer ask, “How many leads did we generate?” They want to know how many sales-ready leads we gathered from Global 500 accounts as evidenced by user time spent consuming content on the web. But individual lines of business may not have the time or resources to create and maintain an on-premises data warehouse to answer these questions. With a new cloud data warehouse and data lake, departments can get analytics projects off the ground quickly and cost effectively. Departments simply spin up their own cloud data warehouses, populate them with data, and make sure they’re connected to analytics and BI tools. For data science projects, a team may want to quickly add a cloud data lake. In some cases, this approach enables the team to respond to requests for sophisticated analysis faster than centralized teams can normally handle. Whatever the purpose of new cloud data warehouse and data lake, enterprises need intelligent, automated cloud data management with best of-breed, cloud-native data integration, data quality, and metadata management all built on a cloud-native platform in order to deliver value and drive ROI. And note that while this approach allows enterprises to start small and scale as needed, the downside is that data warehouse and data lake may only benefit a particular department inside the enterprise.
Some organizations with significant investments in on-premises enterprise data warehouses and data lakes are looking to simply replicate their existing systems to the cloud. By lifting and shifting their data warehouse or data lake “as is” to the cloud, they seek to improve flexibility, increase scalability, and lower data center costs while migrating quickly to minimize disruption. Lifting and shifting an on-premises system to the cloud may seem fast and safe. But in reality, it’s an inefficient approach, one that’s like throwing everything you own into a moving van instead of packing strategically for a plane trip. In the long run, reducing baggage and traveling by air delivers greater agility and faster results because you are not weighed down by unnecessary clutter. Some organizations may need to do a lift and shift, but most will find it’s not the best course of action because it simply persists outdated or inefficient legacy systems and offers little in the way of innovation.
Live Virtual Program on Leading with Analytics & Right Data at ISB
An intensive live virtual programme on Leading with Analytics & Right Data was delivered for 3 weeks starting 03rd October 2020 by the Centre for Executive Education in partnership with the data and analytics research centre – ISB Institute of Data Science. It helped participants learn to break the ‘enigma barrier’ that new technologies like analytics pose and understand the link between marketing strategy and data. it also dealt on how to overcome organisational challenges to transform it into a data-driven business.
This programme was designed to enable leaders to come to grips with analytics and big data. Program also covered foundational principles of the technology and how one can deploy it effectively to transform the business.
Sameer Dhanrajani, CEO & Co-founder at AIQRATE was part of the faculty of this program.
Webinar on AI & Analytics – Chitkara Business School
AIQRATE at IIM Visakhapatnam
ANK – The IT & Analytics Club at IIM Visakhapatnam hosted Pristine edition of the webinar series: The Leadership Talkies hosted by The Business Cluster of IIM Visakhapatnam
Webinar was on on AI & Analytics: Accelerating Business Decisions
The New Next in Strategy & Transformation by Sameer Dhanrajani, CEO & Co-founder, AIQRATE
Ethics and Ethos in Analytics – Why is it Imperative for Enterprises to Keep Winning the Trust from Customers?
Ethics and Ethos in Analytics – Why is it Imperative for Enterprises to Keep Winning the Trust from Customers?
Data Sciences and analytics technology can reap huge benefits to both individuals and organizations – bringing personalized service, detection of fraud and abuse, efficient use of resources and prevention of failure or accident. So why are there questions being raised about the ethics of analytics, and its superset, Data Sciences?
Ethical Business Processes in Analytics Industry
At its core, an organization is “just people” and so are its customers and stakeholders. It will be individuals who choose what to organization does or does not do and individuals who will judge its appropriateness. As an individual, our perspective is formed from our experience and the opinions of those we respect. Not surprisingly, different people will have different opinions on what is appropriate use of Data Sciences and analytics technology particularly – so who decides which is “right”? Customers and stakeholders may have different opinions on to the organization about what is ethical.
This suggests that organizations should be thoughtful in their use of this Analytics; consulting widely and forming policies that record the decisions and conclusions they have come to. They will consider the wider implications of their activities including:
Context – For what purpose was the data originally surrendered? For what purpose is the data now being used? How far removed from the original context is its new use? Is this appropriate?
Consent & Choice – What are the choices given to an affected party? Do they know they are making a choice? Do they really understand what they are agreeing to? Do they really have an opportunity to decline? What alternatives are offered?
Reasonable – Is the depth and breadth of the data used and the relationships derived reasonable for the application it is used for?
Substantiated – Are the sources of data used appropriate, authoritative, complete and timely for the application?
Owned – Who owns the resulting insight? What are their responsibilities towards it in terms of its protection and the obligation to act?
Fair – How equitable are the results of the application to all parties? Is everyone properly compensated? Considered – What are the consequences of the data collection and analysis?
Access – What access to data is given to the data subject?
Accountable – How are mistakes and unintended consequences detected and repaired? Can the interested parties check the results that affect them?
Together these facets are called the ethical awareness framework. This framework was developed by the UK and Ireland Technical Consultancy Group (TCG) to help people to develop ethical policies for their use of analytics and Data Sciences. Examples of good and bad practices are emerging in the industry and in time they will guide regulation and legislation. The choices we make, as practitioners will ultimately determine the level of legislation imposed around the technology and our subsequent freedom to pioneer in this exciting emerging technical area.
Designing Digital Business for Transparency and Trust
With the explosion of digital technologies, companies are sweeping up vast quantities of data about consumers’ activities, both online and off. Feeding this trend are new smart, connected products—from fitness trackers to home systems—that gather and transmit detailed information.
Though some companies are open about their data practices, most prefer to keep consumers in the dark, choose control over sharing, and ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It’s also not unusual for companies to quietly collect personal data they have no immediate use for, reasoning that it might be valuable someday.
In a future in which customer data will be a growing source of competitive advantage, gaining consumers’ confidence will be key. Companies that are transparent about the information they gather, give customers control of their personal data, and offer fair value in return for it will be trusted and will earn ongoing and even expanded access. Those that conceal how they use personal data and fail to provide value for it stand to lose customers’ goodwill—and their business.
At the same time, consumers appreciate that data sharing can lead to products and services that make their lives easier and more entertaining, educate them, and save them money. Neither companies nor their customers want to turn back the clock on these technologies—and indeed the development and adoption of products that leverage personal data continue to soar. The consultancy Gartner estimates that nearly 5 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2015—up 30% from 2014—and that the number will quintuple by 2020.
Resolving this tension will require companies and policy makers to move the data privacy discussion beyond advertising use and the simplistic notion that aggressive data collection is bad. We believe the answer is more nuanced guidance—specifically, guidelines that align the interests of companies and their customers, and ensure that both parties benefit from personal data collection
Understanding the “Privacy Sensitiveness” of Customer Data
Keeping track of the “privacy sensitiveness” of customer data is also crucial as data and its privacy are not perfectly black and white. Some forms of data tend to be more crucial for customers to protect and maintained private. To see how much consumers valued their data , a conjoint analysis was performed to determine what amount survey participants would be willing to pay to protect different types of information. Though the value assigned varied widely among individuals, we are able to determine, in effect, a median, by country, for each data type.
The responses revealed significant differences from country to country and from one type of data to another. Germans, for instance, place the most value on their personal data, and Chinese and Indians the least, with British and American respondents falling in the middle. Government identification, health, and credit card information tended to be the most highly valued across countries, and location and demographic information among the least.
This spectrum doesn’t represents a “maturity model,” in which attitudes in a country predictably shift in a given direction over time (say, from less privacy conscious to more). Rather, our findings reflect fundamental dissimilarities among cultures. The cultures of India and China, for example, are considered more hierarchical and collectivist, while Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom are more individualistic, which may account for their citizens’ stronger feelings about personal information.
Adopting Data Aggregation Paradigm for Protecting Privacy
If companies want to protect their users and data they need to be sure to only collect what’s truly necessary. An abundance of data doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an abundance of useable data. Keeping data collection concise and deliberate is key. Relevant data must be held in high regard in order to protect privacy.
It’s also important to keep data aggregated in order to protect privacy and instill transparency. Algorithms are currently being used for everything from machine thinking and autonomous cars, to data science and predictive analytics. The algorithms used for data collection allow companies to see very specific patterns and behavior in consumers all while keeping their identities safe.
One way companies can harness this power while heeding privacy worries is to aggregate their data…if the data shows 50 people following a particular shopping pattern, stop there and act on that data rather than mining further and potentially exposing individual behavior.
Things are getting very interesting…Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft take the most private information and also have the most responsibility. Because they understand data so well, companies like Google typically have the strongest parameters in place for analyzing and protecting the data they collect.
Finally, Analyze the Analysts
Analytics will increasingly play a significant role in the integrated and global industries today, where individual decisions of analytics professionals may impact the decision making at the highest levels unimagined years ago. There’s a substantial risk at hand in case of a wrong, misjudged model / analysis / statistics that can jeopardize the proper functioning of an organization.
Instruction, rules and supervisions are essential but that alone cannot prevent lapses. Given all this, it is imperative that Ethics should be deeply ingrained in the analytics curriculum today. I believe, that some of the tenets of this code of ethics and standards in analytics and data science should be:
- These ethical benchmarks should be regardless of job title, cultural differences, or local laws.
- Places integrity of analytics profession above own interests
- Maintains governance & standards mechanism that data scientists adhere to
- Maintain and develop professional competence
- Top managers create a strong culture of analytics ethics at their firms, which must filter throughout their entire analytics organization
Analytics Business Leaders are a Scant Community
A considerable amount of current conversation in the area of data science and analytics focuses on the virtues of solving all the challenges that organizations face when using this new paradigm in the business world. There is also a lot of discussion around the technology-related issues that impact achieving data science and analytics goals.
What hasn’t gotten the attention that it merits, however, is the role of business leadership and how thought leaders need to raise the stakes to become not only well versed in analytics, but to build data science and analytics literacy throughout their organizations. They need a heightened awareness of analytics if they are going to effectively drive analytics strategies and outcomes for their organizations and become true leaders in this area by all relevant measures.
The following three significant findings from align with this point of view:
- Create a culture for making fact-based decisions.
- Establish a common data science and analytics vision—and strategy—to focus everyone on the outcomes.
- Instill analytics expertise across the entire organization, from the top down.
Senior executives and business managers should aspire to create the core competencies and to develop analytical insights that enable them to become data science and analytics leaders within their industries. Education, mentorship, and consultation with outside advisors should be implemented to gain the knowledge necessary to attain a leadership role. When selecting a consultancy, business leaders should choose one that can advise, mentor, and support based on specific needs and levels of maturity, as opposed to those that may take a force-fit approach that essentially attempts to force a round peg methodology into a square pegenvironment. And a good grasp of numbers in respect to numerical literacy is also important in this age of fact-based decision making based on insights derived from large volumes of data.
Numerical literacy means acceptable levels of working knowledge and experience in decision science in which analytical techniques such as statistical and descriptive analysis, forecasting, and performance management can be applied. In addition, moving from a gut-based decision model to a fact-based one requires both cultural change as well as the tools and know-how required to create and manage the facts themselves. Finance teams can typically be the source of such competencies, and they can be used as a center for fostering and developing these competencies across the enterprise. It is ultimately at the mercy of top level management on how they are going to leverage their business acumen to instil a cultural change to foster data thinking.
Bringing In Data Mentors At The Very Top
Today’s executives and managers are trained primarily in operations, finance, marketing, and sales, along with a bit of strategy thrown in for good measure. While a significant number of senior executives in the US have advanced degrees in their field of expertise, few have been formally trained in information management, analytics, or decision science. Yet, virtually none have been schooled in decision science, information theory, analytics, or risk management. Lack of training in these areas creates a dilemma for those organizations that want to focus on data science and analytics but do not have experienced leaders who can lead from a position of domain expertise. But that wouldn’t mean stacking up data workers at the TLM (top level management). Leadership drive , domain insight and People Skills will still be the most coveted virtues at the very top. But the lack of ground level data-sifting skills need not be only plugged at the lower levels. To achieve these competencies without formal education or hands-on experience requires consultation with outside data mentors and advisors who can work hand in hand with the entire senior executive team. These advisors help ground the team in both the science and the pragmatics required to achieve successful data science and analytics outcomes that can be applied pervasively across the organization. This approach—some call it the “charm school” approach—can be characterized by a close collaboration among all parties involved. It can rapidly accelerate the process of nondisruptively developing the senior executive team’s data science and analytics expertise and competency to maximize strategic outcomes.
Data science and analytics success should be driven by the business, and more importantly from the ranks of its senior executives and managers—not from the bottom up or from the IT function. The inherent accountability for all strategic initiatives is at the very top of the organization and cascades down and across to business managers at various levels who then have responsibilities for its execution within their area of control. Organizations today remain hierarchical in both structure and cultural behavior. To change either of these structures requires engaged and competent senior executive teams that are committed to the outcome and can influence and align behaviors to support it.
Strategic Thinking in Data Monetization
A number of organizations have come to this realization already. They’re now engaging with management consultancies and analytics boutiques to address their shortcomings and accelerate results from their data science and analytics strategies and successfully monetize them. Alongside these mentoring activities, organizational leadership is strongly advised to consider organizational structures and change readiness as complementary endeavors. They can help illuminate the revisions to structure and Organizational Change Management (OCM) activities required to bring the entire organization to a level that they could start assessing the monetizing estimates of data thinking. These accompanying measures can also bring cohesion to the entire data science and analytics strategy and the pursuit of its outcomes.
Firms that are looking to monetize Data and their Data Science strategies, must look beyond the data and into the economic questions that the data can answer. Often the data can help answer questions about the value, use, risk, or future value or risk of a specific asset. Or the data can say something about an overall market and how asset classes perform and how customers behave generally. Such insights are understood to have great economic value to asset owners and market participants. However, not all data will offer these features or value. The temperature readings from inside our refrigerators are unlikely to alter markets. However, the temperature readings of our furnaces and air conditioners could, in aggregate, drive new energy conservation and policy decisions.
Transforming data into economic insights will be the focus of top level executives who will monetize data. This transformation will require the creation of data products. It may be that such data products can be sold or traded to clients. It can also be that giving away data products will drive other related monetization strategies. Hence creating the data product will not only require technical expertise with manipulating data but a clear vision on how data can be leveraged to answer economical questions and how the future market of the various domains will pan out.
Building a Robust Data Strategy Roadmap – Part III
In continuation to my last article on Building a Robust Data Strategy, let me meaningfully conclude it by highlighting some of the core issues which need to be addressed before data monetization could really be called our as a success and ROI is achieved.
Company needs to have the implicit and/or explicit statutory or legal right, or the ethical right, to divulge private consumer data – either personalized or depersonalized, individualized or at an aggregated level. Especially in industries where regulatory bodies have a heavy clout over what data is being used to cull out actionable insights or even the data flow within or beyond the walls of the organizations. Numerous articles, reports & surveys have highlighted how crucial is for businesses to operate within the ethical boundaries of data gathering or dissemination. Leave no stone unturned to see what policies/restrictions/guidelines are in place for the industry you operate in, how easy/difficult is to access data, and what are customer or end user reactions. You definitely do not intend to burn bridges with your existing customer base or repel away new prospects. Legal actions can be fatal to business at times. Be doubly sure what you are up for!
Do have a thorough understanding of the technological or hardware-related considerations to implement the strategy chosen to monetize the data. At times, organizations don’t have the requisite resources to execute on their strategy, may be because that’s not their core area of operation or it’s happening in silo’es across the organization which the business unit in question is not privy to. A complete landscaping exercise to understand the current state of business, what’s new in the market & what the competition is up to, what’s the future state & a step-by-step roadmap to mature technological prowess. In many cases, businesses hire external consultants or seek handholding by analytics service providers who have the requisite experience in recommending about the gaps & even executing on filling those. A thorough detailed analysis (but not analysis-paralysis) is crucial to the overall success.
At times, organizations sitting on huge pile of valuable data choose to make it available in the market (as another viable revenue model to monetize data). How much data to sell and how to determine costs vs. benefits in putting valuable data on the open market should be thought through. Be privy to the pros & cons of each approach & choose your business model accordingly.
Depending on its core competency, organization needs to identify at which level it wants to monetize the data in the data value chain. Data at each & every touchpoint in the value chain may have its own peculiar problems (missing data, incorrect data etc) and not all of it may be relevant. If your differentiator is “speedy delivery” of goods to your customers, focus on picking the right data sets across the value chain which helps streamlining operations, optimize inventory & transit time. Know what you are best at or what you are known for in the market and harness data capabilities to strengthen your business on that front.
Data Accuracy and/or Liability
Potential problems with inaccurate or directly or indirectly regulated data insights or products hitting the market place. Make sure that data assimilation, aggregation & cleansing exercise is robust enough to ensure the analysis/insights being generated out of it have a high probability of giving the right sense of direction to the business. At times, over-ambitious expectations or poor data quality can directly impact the quality of the outcomes. Garbage-in Garbage-out is the mantra & business managers should perfectly understand the gaps in the data & be cautious before making any solid commitments.
Perceived Market Value
For larger market opportunities, it is likely that an organization would want to play at the higher level in the data value chain. Umpteen times that completely derails the whole Analytics ROI & data monetization exercise. Focus should be specifically on business model(s) used to monetize the data than otherwise.
All the aforementioned considerations should set a good pretext to the data monetization exercise and may be the key to unlocking true value from data strategy initiative. In my subsequent edition, I shall bring to light the “Analytics Centre of Excellence” concept & how can organizations setup a full-fledged Analytics unit to deliver insights to departmants/LOB’s/functions across the business and also serve as a backbone to building a data-driven organization of the future. Stay tuned !
Building a Robust Data Strategy Roadmap – Part II
Unarguably, data and technology is truly redefining & rehashing the way companies do business. Organizations have always had data, which they have utilized to run their businesses more efficiently but recent developments have transformed the way data is utilized by such organizations.
In today’s disruptive economic environment, all leaders are vying for identifying new revenue streams and identifying existing value streams inside the organization especially data. This is where the concept of crafting a Robust Data Strategy comes in, how do we make most of the Dark Data ? Data is now being looked as an asset and business models are now being build around this vast value pool which is hidden inside the data being stored. Enterprises are now anticipating future needs based on preference insights culled out from past & present data. They are creating new products and services in tune with what their customers exactly seek. They are lending an ear to all suggestions/recommendations/feedback shared and also responding to queries/concerns in real time. They are doing it all with data and analytics.
While many companies are becoming aware of the opportunities embedded in their enterprise data, only a few have developed active strategies to monetize it successfully. Data Strategy requires companies to not only understand their data, but also to uncover gaps and evaluate suitable business model(s) for appropriately monetizing the enterprise data. To evaluate their respective monetization opportunities in a more informed and results-driven manner, companies need to assess the value of enterprise data, determine how best to maximize its potential and figure out how to get the data to the market efficiently.
Four Stages to Analytics Sophistication
Based on the current state of data affairs, any organization can be categorized as a beginner, developing, matured or leader. In the initial stages of transformation, organization typically
lacks synergies due to silo’ed efforts, is less agile and more prone to errors, with perennial data quality concerns. As they mature to be leaders in the Analytics space, data sits at the heart of business, with increasingly automated, instant, accurate and seamless data driven decision-making.
- Beginner: Basic infrastructure and tools, proliferation of dashboards and reports
- Developing: Building tools and processes for historical as well as deep diving analysis to gain some insights for future actions
- Matured: Organization adoption of advanced analytical capabilities to predict future outcomes
- Business Transformation or Leader: Centralized analytics focus with capabilities to anticipate future and act in a data driven manner
Time’s ripe to ride on the Data & Analytics wave
Enterprises capture a lot of data, most of which is often overlooked. With reducing costs of capturing and storing data, increasing data analysis capabilities and superior analytical technologies available, enterprises have started to recognize data as one of their most valuable assets. In the few years, enterprises who lead the way in reorienting their approach, initiating enterprise wide data-led transformations and effectively monetizing their data are expected to be in the forefront. Typical market forces driving widespread adoption of Analytics are:
- Technology advancement has facilitated real time data analysis and personalized communication
- Big data technologies, cloud computing, machine intelligence and other advancements etc. have made analysis simpler & efficient
Rise of Consumerism
- Influx of more demanding consumers will force a wave of change
- Consumer engagement and experience management are key levers to success
- Daily volume of data being captured increasing rapidly
- Cost of storing data decreasing massively
- Recognition of amount of under-utilized data that can be used to derive additional value
Increasing importance of Analytics & BI
- Business Intelligence and Analytics becoming an integral part of organization’s decision making
- Pressure on profit margins are forcing increased focus on efficiency and cost reduction
- Increasing competitive pressure
Is your Data truly worth it?
How much business value can be created via data on which organizations are sitting on depends primarily on the following factors & to an extent determines the success of any Analytics initiative.
Predict Behaviour (Patterns)
Enterprise data should be detailed enough to build a successful data monetization strategy. E.g. Customer data should be detailed enough to be able to predict customer behavior, patterns etc.
Size of the Ecosystem
Businesses with high volume, large breadth of data have the ability to generate highest value from the data. Companies with national or global scale can easily establish market view, which makes it more meaningful and valuable
Accessibility and Actionable
Data becomes valuable only if its rich, actionable and accessible. Structured, & readily scalable data makes the process of monetization simpler and efficient, providing higher potential for data monetization
Customer Identification (Granularity)
Data becomes valuable only if it is granular enough to be able to identify the end user/ customer. Ability to identify/ profile customers helps in expanding the range of products and servives that can be offered
Uniqueness of the enterprise data is extremely valuable. It makes the products/services offered by the enterprise exclusive to the enterprise, sustainable differentiation which most organization yearn for
Stages to Data Maturity
Based on maturity of organization’s data, it can take a call what kind of a player it wants to be in the market – a “data seller” or a “full services provider”.
- Selling raw unprocessed data to outside stakeholders
- Companies with rich pool of high quality raw data can onsell such data with little investment required
E.g. – Pharma related data or even NASDAQ’s “Data on Demand” service to its ecosystem of partners in the capital markets
- Companies collect and integrate data from multiple sources
- Data is processed, stored and leveraged in summary form
- Secure capture and transport of data
- Proper storage and management of data using a data platform
E.g. Card Advisory companies provide processed data to merchants and/ or use it for improving its operational efficiency
Business Intelligence/ Predictive Insights
- Tools and technologies such as data mining, predictive modeling and analytics convert data into insights
- Insights are made available to the stakeholders (both internal and external) to drive business decisions
E.g. Wal-Mart segments its customers into three primary groups based on purchasing patterns to spur growth
Products & Solutions Implementation
- Data-driven interactions with end users
- APIs and ability for companies to access platform and data to build comprehensive products and solutions
- Companies use the intelligence to improve product and solutions offering portfolio
E.g. Tesco bank uses Clubcard customer data to identify customer needs and creates new personalized offers
Key Elements to Designing a Robust Data Strategy
Unravel Customer Needs
- Continually understand the customer needs to unearth customer requirements and preferences
- Understanding the delivery and integration models that clients require in order to beneﬁt from enhancements
- Create a business model which fits into the core competency and create offerings which fir into client platforms and applications
- Invest in continuous learning and management of customers’ unmet needs ranging from enhancements to new products/ solutions
Decrypting the Enterprise Data
- Understand the enterprise data captured across all business lines and develop an enterprise wide nomenclature for the same
- Identify and map data and analytics services across business units to understand what types of capabilities can be leveraged to build new products and services using the appropriate business model
Gauging the Market Potential
- Calculate the market potential for the various opportunities identified
- Estimate the revenue potential, internal rate of return, investment required, cost reduction, efficiency etc. for the process
- Understand the key competition, factor in macro and micro factor which can affect the marketplace demand
- Seek out opportunities to enhance the core business or develop new products and services.
Deciphering the Value Chain
- Develop insights into partners and competitors across the value chain including upstream suppliers, data partners etc.
- Identify the new opportunities that can be available across the value chain
- Create a comprehensive view of the data ecosystem
Enhance the existing infrastructure
- Develop a sophisticated yet flexible architecture, suitable technology and applications which can help unlock the value that the opportunities might presents
- Put in place a data infrastructure that can provide the necessary foundation to enable the organization to unlock the value of data assets
The crux of the matter is that with the huge amount of data available with the enterprise’s in today’s competitive and converging business environment, they should start looking for market opportunities leveraging the data available with them. Most of the enterprises still do not consider data as an asset which they can monetize if they choose the correct business strategy and build the required capabilities. Enterprises can not only make better use of their internal data to enhance the current product and services portfolio, it can also provide new insights into the value chain and could transform the enterprise, unleashing a whole new set of products and services for the customers.
By utilizing internal data with external data, powerful generation of high margin solutions can be developed which can transform an entire organization which possesses enormous revenue potential. Done properly, data ecosystems can fund the transformation, create value for customers, and build long lasting relationships with other partners firms, 3rd party vendors & suppliers. But to ensure the true value of data is being monetized by the enterprise, it is essential that it follows a streamlined process to identify the most suitable business model(s) taking into account all constraints which the process might need addressing.
Journey to Analytics Transformation is a Marathon, not a Sprint
The environment today in which organizations across the globe operate in continues to grow more complex with every passing second. With innumerable choices to make, relentless pressure to deliver consistently in a time bound manner and rationalizing profit margins, the decision-making process becomes yet more daunting and convoluted. Unarguably, Analytics consistently delivers significant value – from strategic to tactical, managing top-line to bottom-line – to the organizations and business executives who use it. But senior leaders are still grappling with the question whether they are truly harnessing the fullest value from the massive amounts of data at their disposal; “dark data” sitting within their organizations in silos. Advent of newer technologies are making data collection faster than ever before, and it may seem like an overwhelming task to turn data into insights and answers that drive the strategic imperative. Storage & computational capacities have grown by leaps and bounds, opening up doors to intelligent decision-making for varied business stakeholders, yet many organizations are still looking for better ways to obtain value from their data and compete more effectively in the marketplace. The fundamental question about how best to achieve value still boggles most of the leaders.
Is competition equipped to obtain more incisive, timely and valuable insights? Are they catching the pulse of the global economy, the marketplace, the customers & the industry much better than what we do? Do they have better foresight to unravel what happened and why it happened in the past, and are they in a much better shape to decipher their current and future state to take actions closely aligned to market realities for optimal results? What do these analytically mature organizations do differently and what sets them apart from the crowd? Have we gotten our approach and data strategy right? Have we empowered our workforce enough to effectively leverage our Analytics insights? Has it seeped in appropriately to all the downstream decision makers? Plentiful questions abound and more often than not these perennial doubts do keep bothering the senior leadership, “are we doing it the right way”?
And not so astonishingly, most of the well thought through Analytics initiatives and robust Analytics transformation journeys go for a complete toss or fail to deliver value. From lack of senior leadership buy-in to Analytics value, advanced analytics applications not being put to best of their use, or a proliferation of analytics applications that fail to deliver a unified, solid strategic direction, many companies are falling short of the value analytics can provide. No wonder leaders end up losing patience and Analytics remains to be an elusive concept to most, putting up barriers to widespread Analytics adoption at the very beginning itself. Consequently, the shutters are pulled down much before the Analytics champions get a chance to showcase even marginal business impact. All the tall claims mutually agreed upon just end up being farfetched dreams !
When businesses venture into the Analytics space and think about transforming their organization into an Analytics think tank, it’s no easy ask. The way expectations are set initially, that analytics-driven insights to be consumed in a manner that triggers new actions across the organization, they must be closely linked to business strategy, easy for end-users to understand and embedded into organizational processes so that action can be taken at the right time. Now just mulling over what I just mentioned here, it’s a mammoth task in itself with too many ifs and buts. Just imagine the complexity we are dealing with. Let’s quickly take a high-level perspective of what kind of challenges do most organizations stumble upon, and understand the critical ingredients to a perfect Analytics recipe are:
- Right problem statement where analytics could have a strong play
- Right Data to begin with
- A strong team of Analytics professionals (Data Cleansers, Data Visualizers, Modelers etc) with a right blend of skill sets
- Senior leadership buy-in and requisite budgets
- Clearing other internal toll gates
- Program review framework to track progress & suggest realignment
- And the biggest of them all, a drastic shift in the mindsets of business users consuming these insights, how to make the transition process seamless
Aforementioned list is just a flavor of typical roadblocks your Analytics initiative could run up against and I haven’t even gotten into the finer details of spending wasteful time on Analytics tools/techniques which may not fit the bill. In a nutshell, the pitfalls are too many and as advocates of Analytics, it’s imperative for us to convey the same picture to the right set of business stakeholders in the organization that Analytics may take time to deliver value. And the wait could get even longer if a structured and methodical approach is not followed here. Undoubtedly, it requires painstaking focus on the way insights are infused into everything from manufacturing and new product development to credit approvals and call center interactions.
So what truly makes certain companies so successful with analytics initiatives while others fail to get the results they are looking for? Analytically mature organizations approach business operations very differently than their peers do. Disproportionately analytic leaders are having management support and mandate for analytics throughout the organization, including top-down diktat for analytics, sponsors and champions; they are open to breeding change and accept new ideas; having a focused approach to customer experience driven by analytics; and heavily use analytics to identify and address strategic threats to the organization. On a specific note, they deploy analytics across widest range of decisions, be it large or small. There’s a high correlation between organizational performance and analytics-driven management, and Analytics forms the key to all performance related aspects, be it seeking growth, efficiency or competitive differentiation.
The path to realizing value out your Analytics efforts and investments is a long-drawn process. But still, how can organizations bring down the time-to-value for analytics? How can you avoid common pitfalls which may derail the Analytics intent your organization set out with? Analytics value creation can be achieved during the initial budding phases on the path to analytics sophistication. Contrarian to common assumptions here, it doesn’t require the presence of perfect data or a full-scale organizational transformation and small pilots to convey value should suffice. After initial successes, snowballing effect shall come to rescue.
Does targeting the biggest challenge of all imply setting stage for big failures? Not always! Remember higher stakes command top management attention, appropriate investment, attracts best of the breed talent and incite action. Hence, focusing on the biggest and highest-value opportunities may not be that bad an idea. Don’t pick insurmountable problems though and ensure focus on achievable steps.
Framing the Right Questions
More often than not organizations are tempted to start the data assimilation process, way before they kick-start their analysis. A lot of valuable time & effort is spent in aggregating this data across various departmental silos, cleansing, harmonization, conversion etc. leaving little time for actually thinking through the intent of analyzing the data, and uncovering potential uses. To get optimal results, the idea should be start carving out the insights and questions which need to be answered to meet the bigger business objective rather than jumping on getting the data pieces together. Such an exercise at times can illuminate gaps in the existing data infrastructure and business-as-usual processes. Data-first strategy could mean lot of unintended rework, approaching a dead end towards the later stages and may be budget overruns in case additional resources are to be pooled in.
Easing out Information Consumption
In the end, the consumers of insights are the business users. In that case, the Analytics team may have to don the hat of a business stakeholder and be able to represent information in a meaningful way which sees direct applicability to their audience. Ability to convey the story in effective manner, figuring out better ways to communicate complex insights is crucial so that users can quickly absorb the meaning of the data and take appropriate actions. Leveraging numerous visualization and reporting tools can simplify insights, make results more comprehensible & easier to act upon. They can transform numbers into information and insights that can be readily put to use, versus having to rely on ambiguous interpretations or leaving them unused due to uncertainty about how to act.
Embedding insights at the right touch points & delivering value
With the proliferation of analytics applications and tools, embedding information into existing business processes, workflows etc is a lot more streamlined. For e.g. insights from your location analytics tools can easily be superimposed over existing maps-based applications deployed at the Salesforce level to help them plan out their routes optimally. Oil exploration companies can easily embed the production or pipeline information into their existing enterprise-level systems for informed decision-making around the next best drilling site. Such innovative ways have to be through to make consumption of complex Analytics insights a lot easier across the organization. Point to note here is that, putting together a new system for consuming Analytics insights could mean a drastic cultural shift for the business users, and high resistance to change in such cases could lead to failures. If somehow these insights could be seamlessly infused into existing apps/tools or processes would mean smoother transitioning & better outcomes due to increased adherence.
Slow & Steady Scale-up
As the business mature on the analytics front over time, data-driven decision making slowly starts spreading its wings across the organization. And as the Analytics experience and usage grows, the value analytics can deliver grows multi-folds, enabling business benefits to accrue much faster than originally imagined. Not all functions/LOB’s/departments are at an equipotential when it comes to Analytics maturity. Business functions like finance and supply chain are inherently data intensive and are often where analytics first makes its mark. Harping on the early successes, organizations can begin expanding analytics reach to other units. Crafting reusable assets which could be repurposed, with slight modifications by other units could speed up the transformation process.
Crafting a Data Agenda
Dealing with disparate sources of information, sitting in silos across the organization, in varying formats & structures, and churning out divergent insights can be a daunting task and also convey a highly convoluted, incomprehensible picture at times. The data agenda should provide a high-level roadmap that aligns business needs to growth in analytics sophistication as the organization matures along the way. It should be flexible enough to keep pace with the changing business priorities and must have clearly stated guidelines or frameworks to aid transforming data into a strategic asset; data which is integrated, consistent and dependable enough. Data quality & effective governance processes can be set up to ensure seamless assimilation and healthiness of data being put to greater use. Even though, you tread down the analytics path with the biggest organizational challenge, start putting the data pieces together which deliver insights & get you closer to the actual solution, but then how this data foundation crafted aligns with the overall data agenda is crucial. Comprehensiveness of the data agenda builds up the requisite momentum to deliver meaningful nuggets of information across disparate systems organization-wide. Eventually the data agenda is at the very core of any analytics initiative, ensuring the “right piece of information” reaches out to the “right stakeholders”, with the “right set of business priorities” at the “right time”.
To expedite the process to path to value, start by identifying big business issues which would garner the right management attention and resources for execution, carefully cherry-pick challenges for which you see Analytics as the key enabler, taking into account the foreseeable changes in the operating ecosystem as you go along. Riding on assets capabilities already inherent to the organization, the core strengths, is the key and creating reusable components can help scale up fast to increase reach. And the most important of all, keep embedding insights generated at every step into existing business processes to deliver continuous business impact and monitor change.