April 22, 2016

Data-driven services: The big 5 questions

Sukant Panda

Head of Infra Advisory Service, Tieto

Sameer Khan

Business Consultant (MS), Tieto

Before an organisation invests in technology to draw value from data, it needs to ask: "What should this actually do for us?"

A lot has been written on topics like digitalization, cloud computing, mobility, IoT, social media and the consumerisation of IT. However, many organisations are still struggling to implement their digital strategies effectively, and many service providers are having the same difficulty when it comes to creating the right perspectives for their clients.

Meanwhile, the importance of data - and the potential it holds, if monetised, to improve margins and deliver top-line growth - continues to increase. A challenging IT landscape made up of legacy solutions, various partnerships and alliances, and disruptive new technology is only adding to the problem. In an era where organisations are under pressure to redefine and reoptimise their value chains, data is the new oil.

This is why we sometimes say: "If something is free, you're not the customer - you're the product."

But data is a complicated thing. It's generated, processed and controlled by multiple parties, and there are also parties who might benefit from stealing it. At the same time, data itself is really nothing more than numbers and characters in rows and columns - in order to extract value from it, you need to create a perspective and present your insights to the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.

Using technology to draw value from data

Technology can help with this, but it can also be a double-edged sword - effective in the right hands and dangerous in the wrong ones. Organisations are complex organisms, rife with friction, politics and hidden agendas. This has led to overspending on technology in the past, as well as the development of unnecessarily complex processes.

Part of the problem is that IT has traditionally been seen as a support function, not a business unit in itself. However, over the past 15 years or so, rapid growth in areas like the internet, mobility and social media have caused organisations to lose perspective of what technology really means for the business, and how IT can create value from it.

And this technology hasn't just evolved quickly - it's also become more accessible and affordable than ever. The result is that many organisations have gone out and bought a lot of new stuff without really thinking about how it'll fit into their wider IT environment or what tangible benefits it'll deliver. They've been so busy adopting new solutions and technologies they've forgotten to ask: "What should this actually do for us?"

This is a question every organisation should ask. It should be at the centre of every decision around digital strategy. And, in the case of analytics solutions, it should help organisations understand the value of both their own data and any new data from partners, alliances and open-source projects.

The big 5 questions

The question "what should this actually do for us?" will likely mean something slightly different to different stakeholders in the organisation. If we break it down, we arrive at what we might term the "big five" questions:

  • CEO: How can we use data to drive business performance with confidence?
  • CDO: How can we leverage new and existing sources of data to drive business value?
  • CFO: How will this bridge the gap between strategic and operational decision-making?
  • COO: How will this help us drive excellence in business operations?
  • CMO: How can we maximise the effectiveness of our marketing investments and deliver relevant communications to the customer?

Answering these questions alone won't monetise data, but it's an important step in the wider process. Once the organisation understands the nature of the its data and has a perspective on how to use them, it can create a matrix of each business unit's focus area and the data it will leverage.

This will help the organisation convert the data into information, making it tangible and ready for monetisation - at which point it can start to choose which technologies to use along the way.

And this, ultimately, is what digitalization is!

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