Ever since I started my career in the world of “Data Mining,” since renamed “Big Data and Advanced Analytics,” it has always been an area that has received huge levels of attention from businesses, consultants, media and technologists. Now, as the world begins to see its capabilities in action alongside other technologies, it is easier to see why.
No matter what sector or industry, any organisation that can understand and utilise the power of its data will have access to incredibly valuable insights and operational intelligence. From informing business strategy to data driven decision-making, even a basic grasp of its potential can provide significant competitive edge and open up new opportunities.
However, in order to get to the stage where insights become actionable, every business must be willing to undertake a companywide reset of attitudes towards data. Furthermore, the need to address this issue is only becoming more urgent.
The rapid adoption of new technologies which produce more data sources – such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices – means that businesses must get their strategy around data, Analytics and AI right or risk being left behind; because the rate of change is not slowing. Forbes recently revealed that around 90 percent of the world’s data was generated in the last two years alone.1
What does that mean for businesses in the next two, three or five years?
As well as this, the evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning means that those who can effectively gather this data will have the capability to analyse it, draw out insight, build AI assets, automate processes to leverage it effectively and identify future trends at speed.
Yet despite this evidence, data still remains a “black-box” for many – untapped and unused. Organisations are literally flooded with it, including but not limited to CRM data, sales data and returns data. Deriving value from these pools at first can seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. Faced with this complexity, many cannot see the full value of what they have available.
Even for those who have started down the path of exploring and utilising their data, recognising the best way to manage it can be a challenge. For digitally conscious businesses, a key decision is to appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to lead these activities. According to one study from consultancy NewVantage Partners, only 12 percent of large companies worldwide had a CDO in 2012 - today the figure is 63 percent.
Undoubtedly, bringing in data specialists (and all related specialists such as data engineers, cloud/platform developers, data privacy and security experts, AI practitioners, data architects etc.) is a necessary first step in building the strategy and capability to deliver effective insight: but this alone is only a sticking-plaster solution.
Data is so integral to how businesses operate and succeed in today’s economy, that making the most of it really has to be everyone’s job.
This means that the entire C-suite has to provide support, ensuring that their area is primed to harvest robust data and that stakeholders understand the value of using it in conjunction with Analytics and AI. Cascading down the organisation, business units need to use that data to experience the benefits it can deliver. Only then will individual teams begin to adapt their behaviour.
Whatever the stage of maturity, all businesses must consider their long-term approach. For those that already use data and analytics effectively, optimisation is needed to yield better returns from new technologies. For those at the beginning of their journey, an informed strategy is essential.
For all organisations, hiring a CDO is a great first step on any data journey. A CDO should not only be responsible for looking at data as an individual asset, but also as a whole to drive performance improvements across the organisation. They must bring all business teams and functions together, working towards a key set of principles as part of a privacy-by-design approach. This will support GDPR compliance in relation to the European Union, as well as any specific policies around data protection within your organisation or industry,
However, only with holistic support and buy-in from the whole organisation will companies truly benefit from the potential of Big Data and Analytics.
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