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No industry is standing still these days, and that includes shipbuilding. Many are struggling to determine how to re-invent themselves in this new digital and connected world. However, our craving to implement innovative technologies is compelling companies to rush and start employing digital technologies within their organization just for the sake of it. These digital initiatives vary in scale, innovative technology, culture & mindset change, process change, corporate focus (besides just words), leadership engagement and resource allocation.

This rush to implement digital technologies is causing us to create distinct initiatives, each with their own teams, goals, timelines and even corporate leadership. While not an issue by itself, this is also unintentionally creating an Innovation Silo between these initiatives. While the underlying technology used does not seem related on the surface, all digital transformation initiatives have a fundamental resource in common: your enterprise’s shared data.

What Drives All Digital Innovation?

If you evaluate any of your digital initiatives today or what you are planning on implementing soon, they all will require digital data to feed it.

“Data is the new oil, and it will fuel the beast of the future.”

What this means is that every company implementing some sort of digital innovation requires access to the digital information that they have available to them today. This information may not be in the format, fidelity, structure or abundance as we would ideally like; however, we do have enough of it to feed the digital technologies we are implementing. This resourcefulness of using what we have is admirable and a trait we want to continue. But there is an ugly side which we need to be aware of so that we can avoid it.

Most companies have several distinct initiatives, using different types of digital technologies, that are all taking their data from the same data sources. Each technology may use the information differently and may require it to be combined or massaged in a certain way to feed their technology successfully.

This is where the challenge starts to take shape. You have each of the initiative teams implementing seemingly different technologies thinking that they do not have anything significant in common with other teams, creating an Innovation Silo. However, they have something major in common: the source data feeding their technologies.

Creating a New Species of Silo: Innovation Silos

Each of these Innovation Silos starts with the same source information but are massaging the data, linking it to other data (usually with some significant effort) and adding additional intelligence to the dumbdata. However, all these efforts are being worked on in a silo – often duplicating the effort of other teams.

In a world that we are trying to free of silos, the craving to implement technology is blinding us to the fact we are creating new innovation silos. With these silos, we are not able to leverage the compounding interest of our previous work and effort. If one initiative requires a link to be created between two sets of information, allow other initiatives to also extract value from that link. If the cost of massaging and prepping the data is only recouped through one initiative, you are missing out on a huge chunk of value. As Albert Einstein said: “Compound Interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays It.”

Data is a Shared Asset Across the Enterprise

Data will be the lifeblood of every business in the future, and we need to treat it as an asset shared across the entire enterprise. Getting control of our current and future data is something that many are struggling with. Determining the technology architecture, picking software vendors, meeting after meeting of business process discussions, disagreement of migration needs, and numerous other reasons are making the process even more challenging and frustrating. This is the main reason that so many of our digital initiatives are going rogue and unintentionally creating their innovation silos in the process.

Creating an enterprise data foundation that will be the company’s strategy to manage data across the enterprise is difficult but crucial. We need to have this foundation to de-risk the technology that we are implementing and develop an innovative strategy that will continue to build on our efforts similarly to compounding interest. Without it, we are at risk of building innovation silos and slowing our digital growth.

Closing Remarks

Every organization is craving to implement technology in an attempt not to be left behind in the new digital world. We are being resourceful and using the information that we have available today, even though it is unstructured, disorganized, not in the format we ideally want, and only contains a subset of the information we want.

However, this, unfortunately, is leading us to create new Innovation Silos that may have started with the same data source, but throughout the progress of each innovation, they have unified information, massaged information, created relationships and captured knowledge to make it more consumable for their technology. Much of this work could have been leveraged across many of the other innovations, saving valuable time. Maybe even more importantly, it could have provided more value to each initiative if it was created in a foundation from which all would be able to access.

Understanding that data is the enterprise’s second most valuable asset (people being the first) it is important to focus on having an enterprise data foundation which all innovations can leverage and capturing new data, meta data and relationships. This is very difficult for companies to create for many reasons, but it still needs to be one of the highest priorities. Without a solid data foundation, any digital initiative is severally constrained.

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