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March 2, 2021

Any innovation that we are pursuing today will require digital data to be available in a usable form to feed the technology we are leveraging. The difficulty is that not all digital data is built the same and cannot feed all data-hungry technologies. Also, the needs of each of these digital technologies that are part of our digital transformation are different and require different fuels (digital data).

The foundational importance that digital data has for our business success has forced many organizations to focus on getting a better handle of their digital information. Every company has a lot of digital information, but it is in disparate systems and applications that do not allow for any easy way to relate information across platforms and much of the digital data is not useable. This is why many initiatives are attempting to get control of the data organizations have today and look at how the information that will be created can more easily be used to drive the innovations required to achieve their vision.

The first place most are looking is at technology. This is understandable as the systems and platforms that many have in their environment today are relics that were never built for the digital and business needs of today. However, as usual, technology is only part of the answer, and we really need to have a different mindset and culture about the digital data we create and the data we do not create.

Data is a Company Asset

Data and the information that is derived from it is the lifeblood of any business in the future. Because it is so important to the future success of many of the business initiatives, it is imperative that you get a good handle on the data that your organization creates, consumes from other partners/suppliers and alters.

To do this, you need a mindset and culture that thinks of data as an asset rather than a byproduct of your activities and tasks. When you think of it as more of an asset, the team understands that the quality and accessibility of that information will add value long after it was created. When you think of data as an asset, you do not default to creating “temporary excel or databases” that are used to accomplish a job and then thrown away. You will look for ways how you can first leverage any available data that is in the business system. If that data is not already available, you will add your data and information to the business system environment so that others can benefit/leverage it in the future. Treating data as an asset changes behaviors on how data is created, consumed and distributed in the new digital age.

Change of Mindset Is Not Easy

The hardest thing we need to achieve our vision of our business transformation is to change the culture and mindset of our organization. There are some key aspects that I think data-driven companies need to understand:

  1. Leadership commitment and not just lip service. Actions speak louder than words, and it is important that the leadership of any organization make decisions that align with a data-driven business.
  2. Technology is not the magic bullet. Updating your enterprise business systems is a key requirement, but it is not the only thing that is needed. Thinking that once a certain piece of technology is implemented, it will solve your data challenges is a fallacy.
  3. Data-driven will initially require more upfront effort. Nothing comes for free. There may initially be more time we need to make sure the data that we are creating is in a form and a platform that will make it available to other stakeholders and systems. The benefit, unfortunately, may not be attained instantly but rather in the near future. This makes it difficult to make the decision to stay on course.
  4. Make realistic and attainable goals. Many digital transformation initiatives fail because the goal is unreachable. It is important to have an inspiring vision, but the goal should be attainable within several months (do not make it years).
  5. Make constant and steady progress. As the saying goes: “Rome was not built in a day.” Impatience to see results in the short term often leads to significant obstacles that will result in a lack of engagement and commitment. This, in turn, will make it even harder to reach the goal.

Closing Remarks

Digital data will fuel the future of all business strategies. In many cases, this digital data is not the same disconnected, inaccurate, low fidelity and unconnected digital data that we have today. While some of the digital data will be able to be leveraged, we will have to ensure that our organizations also create several new types of digital data and make it accessible by the technology that requires it.

Digital Data should be viewed as an asset, like any physical product or service you provide. This new mindset and culture for the appreciation of the digital data will need to be indoctrinated within the organization. Without it, the complexity of managing data and how it flows throughout the organization will be unattainable.

Evolving an organization to be more data-driven is not easy and cannot be solved only with technology. There has to be a commitment from the organization at all levels, patience to endure the obstacles that will arise without going back to the previous way of working and a constant and steady-paced pursuit of the data-driven goal.

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