The Future of Data

Data is not just an asset. It is the strongest voice that will help businesses to stay competitive. We know that this resource holds the answer to many of our business challenges but mastering the art of extracting insights that are credible and powerful enough to drive strategic business decisions is no easy feat. To learn from experts in this field we were delighted to co-host an event on the future of data in partnership with Google Cloud.

Savannah Group’s co-host for this event, Heather Barnes, Partner in Savannah Group’s Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice was joined by our panellists for a conversation about developing a data-driven culture to drive commercial performance and supercharge innovation

Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist, Looker at Google Cloud
Mike Young, Non-Executive Director at BT, Board Advisor to Informa and former group CIO of Centrica
Andi Karaboutis, Group Chief Information & Digital Officer at National Grid

“The reason that companies are realising that data is a critical enabler is because those that are leveraging data correctly are winning. They are winning at achieving their corporate goals and objectives. They are winning at enabling and engaging customers differently. Data is not just an asset. It is the strongest voice that will help us achieve and exceed expectations and competitively win. It is daunting and it is a race.”

Key takeaways – How to harness the potential of data for the future

  1. The voice of data is being generated everywhere and constantly. Listening to it and synthesising it will give you competitive edge.
  2. The latest and best tools cannot do their job unless the organisational culture and mindset are in place to optimise them. Organisations need to get the right people in place as a priority, over and above tools and a data strategy.
  3. The value is not in the data itself, it’s in connecting the right people with the right information at the right time and this should be a priority for businesses.
  4. The way to get buy in is to show, not tell. Education and socialisation have some benefits, but will never be as powerful as showing how data is solving a critical or recurring business
    problem. Technology leaders can win buy in by grasping one business challenge and working through it using new tools and methodologies.
Tap into the data wherever it is

Organisations that are using data to drive business decisions are firing on all cylinders, all of the time. Technologists therefore need to leverage data wherever it sits. There is an old school way of thinking that believes that a set of master data needs to be organised, indexed and pulled into a data lake or data warehouse before it can be interrogated but real-time data needs to be listened to now. The speed at which data can be collected, analysed and acted upon is tremendous and it’s up to the Chief Data Officer (CDO) or the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to apply some husbandry around the data to make it workable but we need to be able to work at speed and use data no matter where it sits. Businesses will never complete that housekeeping exercise of cleaning and tidying all their data. Agile companies use data where it is to get answers today.

Culture and mindset

There is a ‘data adoption ceiling’ that organisations regularly bump up against when implementing new tools and technology. To break through it, it’s important to lead by infusing data into the right places, rather than leading with the tool itself. To change minds, CDOs need to focus on extracting relevant insights that will help the business make decisions, then they win buy in and facilitate a data culture change. Similarly, if you have an audience that is used to a legacy tool which falls short, and you can prove that there is something better, you’ll likely experience instant adoption. This type of adoption can pave the way for easier adoption of other new systems further down the line and can therefore boost culture change.

Connect people at the right time

More people than ever before are part of the conversation about data, more colleagues have put data into systems, and they believe that data could help them do their jobs better – but can they access it in a meaningful way? We know that there are answers to our biggest business problems in data, but we often fail to collect the answers to the right people at the right time – meaning colleagues likely don’t feel they are getting value from data-based insight. The way that technologists activate the data to be more intuitive or to make people’s lives easier matters and companies need to have this approach to data at their heart if they are going to find touchpoints with the people who matter to us – fast and in an impactful way.

Show, don’t tell

Companies tend to invest in education and socialisation programmes for new tools but the only way to embed a data-led culture is to show, not tell. Data is the foundation of digital and therefore technologists that can show agile working, show analytics and can demonstrate what the benefits are that go beyond theory are able to show colleagues insights they never knew they had. Ask yourself what does our CEO want to know about? It’s not about demonstrating the power of the tools it’s about answering business questions. Working through a relevant example means you avoid the risk of sharing data that is interesting but not actionable.

People as well as tools

Both existing technology products and new ones are evolving all the time so it’s critical to have the right in-house capability to stay ahead of the curve. In fact, capability in house is more important than the tools. Many organisations jump to the tools first without considering in-house technology expertise which puts up barriers to embedding a digital organisational mindset. One way to experiment with capability and tools is to pick a user case that you know is valuable and direct all efforts at solving that one problem without being tied to a stack of existing tools. If you can do this and learn from it, you can then evangelise to the rest of the organisation.

Thank you to our co-hosts, Google Cloud, to our panellists for sharing their expertise with us and to our audience of business and technology leaders for their interactive discussion and personal insights.

Heather Barnes is a Partner in Savannah Group’s Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice.

Connect with Heather here: Connect with Heather Barnes.

Connect with Daniel here: Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist, Looker at Google Cloud

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