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The Secret To Be A Digital Winner Is Data

Organizations have no choice but to innovate continuously and discover novel ways to delight their customers

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“In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.” - Jeff Bezos, Founder, and CEO

In recent times, there has been an unprecedented transformation in the way we live and work. On the one hand, rapid advancement in technologies such as Cloud, Mobile, Artificial Intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) has empowered organizations to innovate faster, generate new revenue streams, run efficient operations and enhance the customer experience in ways never anticipated before. On the other hand, customers are becoming more and more demanding. Thus, organizations have no choice but to innovate continuously and discover novel ways to delight their customers - those who don’t, risk losing competitive advantage and soon become obsolete.

A significant by-product of any Digital initiative is Data. The velocity, variety, and volume of Data generated are enormous. By applying the powerful and ever-growing processing capabilities offered by Cloud on this vast Data, organizations can gain critical insights on unlocking new growth opportunities. 

As per Gartner, “By 2021, the office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) will be a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75 percent of large enterprises.”

This powerful prediction encapsulates the crucial role Data will play in any Digital Optimization or Digital Transformation goals. Listed below are a few critical questions whose answers will enable organizations to carefully carve their Data strategy, which plays a pivotal role in fulfilling their Digital dreams!

Do you have a Data Strategy which is tied to a business outcome?

Be absolutely clear about the business benefit you aim to achieve by harnessing the power of Data. Do not embark on any Data initiative without attaching it to a measurable business goal. For example – Reduce inventory costs by discovering the duplicates, Minimize goods returned due to inaccurate customer addresses, Optimize the supply chain transportation costs. This clarity will immensely help to plan, carve the way forward, and stay focused on the goal. Do not jump into technologies like Artificial Intelligence just because everyone else is doing it. 

‘Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.’ – Michael Porter, a renowned business strategist

What is your current Data maturity level?

The processes and tools to harness the potential of Data are very different at varying levels of Data maturity. It is naïve for a company with ‘Tribal’ maturity level to embark on an ambitious multi-million-dollar data governance project. Even if a nice looking solution is implemented, it’s consumption by the larger user group will be sub-optimal. Why is it so? It is just not ready. Business and IT should collaborate as partners, pick the right use cases, and invest wisely based on the level of Data maturity. Just focus on doing the right things, at a pace which suits your DNA and let the maturity evolve. 

How good is your Data quality?

Poor data quality is a problem plaguing almost every organization. It significantly impacts business operations in numerous ways – low customer satisfaction, increased operational expenses, non-compliance penalties, a poor time to market, and sub-optimal decision making. Organizations may have lots of Data, have access to the most advanced technology, and the skill sets to apply it, but they are of no use whatsoever if quality data is not available. Setting up processes and tools for improving the quality of Data in itself is a mammoth effort. A good starting point is to understand the level of your Data quality. 

How do you plan to integrate the Data?

Data flows in from multiple sources in a variety of formats – digital and analog, structured and unstructured. Also, different departments within the organization typically use various tools and ways to manage their Data. This results in Data Siloes, a widely prevalent phenomenon in all organizations.  Break down these Siloes to gain the critical bigger picture view.

Are the different business applications talking to each other seamlessly?

A typical business application landscape in most of the medium to large enterprise is usually very complicated. It consists of mission-critical apps such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and function-specific point solutions and tools – manufacturing, procurement, human resources. These applications are deployed either on-premise (the traditional in-house servers) or on Cloud (possibly multiple Clouds) or accessed as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The key question to ask is, how well are these different applications exchanging the Data seamlessly? 

Are you fostering a Data-driven culture?

According to IDC, “By 2020, 90 percent of corporate strategies will explicitly mention data as a critical enterprise asset, and mention analytics as an essential competency.”

Everyone acknowledges that Data is a strategic asset. However, seldom do they take actions which elevate Data as an Enterprise asset. Are you connecting value to Data? Is the decision-making Data driven? Does a trustful partnership exist between IT and Business?  A culture which revers Data will continually produce disruptive innovation, which in turn attracts the best talent, and there is no end to this virtuous cycle.  

What is your approach for Data initiatives?

Many organizations take a big-bang approach involving lots of money, time, and people. Many a time without enough clarity on the goals they are pursuing. Do not try to boil the ocean. The success lies in adopting a Lean and Agile approach with a relentless focus on a well-defined goal. Start with simple yet impactful use cases and taste success quickly. Communicate the success stories in the language the business users understand. Remember, many projects fail because of lack of communication than execution! 

As the most influential figure in the history of Western art, Vincent van Gogh says, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Do you have the skills to unleash the potential of Data?

It is not an easy task to gain actionable insights from Data. Especially when a significant portion of it is either unstructured or not clean. It takes enormous effort to consolidate, integrate, and cleanse the data even before any analytics tool can consume it. Skill-sets such as domain knowledge, data science expertise, functional knowledge of business applications are indispensable to discern trends and patterns. Do you have this skill-sets in-house? If not, consider partnering with service providers who are good at this.   

Are you empowering business users with self-service tools?

Business users across all the functions need access to Data all the time to perform day to day operations such as customer service, closing books of accounts, running marketing campaigns, paying suppliers. However, often, they don’t have direct access, surprisingly even to the Data they own. Hence, they depend on the technology teams (IT) who are perennially busy. This dependency leads severely slows down organization velocity. So, empower your business users with easy to use self-service tools.

To sum it up, the winners of tomorrow are the ones who are relentless in their pursuits to decode Data and wield the insights as a competitive weapon. However, the key is a well-thought-out Data strategy. How confident are you about your Data strategy?

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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data artificial intelligence iot data strategy

Abid Ali

The author is Senior Director - Global Product Marketing and APAC Business Development at CoreStack.

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