Digital transformation is rooted in defining the core metrics your business is built on; the problem is that the single biggest barrier to success is failing to define what “meaningful” is. We’re awash with data; in fact Paul Hunt, International Presales Director at NashTech Limited recalled the phrase “I’m drowning in data, it’s information I need!”
That phrase is probably true for many organisations today, but they add to their issues by retro-fitting technology, rather than thinking about the core metrics to drive the business. You end up with a data-driven business but no purpose; you end up being opinionated without something of substance to ground your stance.
On Wednesday I was lucky to be asked to host a panel called “Getting The Most From Your Data”, as part of the Big Data and AI World Expo Series.
For 40-minutes our guests, Jimmy Hosang, Jay Limburn, Dr. Richard Benjamins, Dr. Armin Müller and Errol Koolmeister talked about building strong user cases, strategy, governance and surviving the political landscape of an organisation amongst other subjects.
Unsurprisingly (as is often the case when chatting about tech) very little of the conversation was actually technical. Jimmy, CEO of The Modular Analytics Company, made the point that culture is as important as the technology. Landing change is often harder than creating the solution, and getting buy-in from stakeholders and those impacted by your transformation is key to making your changes stick.
I asked Richard, Chief AI and Data Strategist at Telefonica, for his take on how to get buy-in for your solution. He described two approaches to getting continued executive buy-in; a grassroots movement and a top-down approach.
However, the real challenge lies in middle management, especially in a consumer business. Data is power and if you’re sharing your data, you’re giving up power; power which enables you to tell your story how you want to tell it.
Unfortunately for many businesses that’s not what the middle-layer of the organisation wants! Nathan Smith, Sales Manager at Crimson, stressed that often the middle doesn’t want to improve the data quality as it highlights fact, not fiction.
Not only is there concern over losing control of the narrative, but inaccurate data allows them to put their opinion across and mask areas that actually need investment. So whilst we talk about technical silos in a business, many are also cultural, forming as a consequence of managers simply choosing not to share.
The journey will be slow, and incremental. Executives need to be patient and recognise that they are not just dealing with technical problems to solve. Darren Timmins, a Data Evangelist working with Crimson, summarised the problem;
“Most organisations get distracted by the salesman offering a technological shortcut to solving business, cultural and organisational challenges, be it digital, data or anything else, the answer is rarely a tool. The culture and focus of a business should be key and addressed while utilising the technology and data as the enabler to bring about change.
COVID did more for the digital agenda than any executive ever did, even though it was well recognised as a strategy.”