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Challenges to becoming Data Driven


In the early 2000's I worked for a monstrous US company with operations in Sydney. It was my dream job at the time - a huge opportunity to drive data centre services (e.g. co-location, mirrored servers, DR) and managed services solutions (24/7 up-time monitoring and support) for international companies wanting to strengthen their networks, while making the most of the Australian dollar. It turned out that while tech was establishing itself, getting traction, many companies were not able to consume the new technology at a pace to off-set the rampant over-valuations of the technology. Unfortunately much of the business technology being touted was not easy to adopt or suited to what businesses needed. With minimal uptake from businesses and complete and rampant overvaluation - the bubble burst taking my dream job in a flurry of chapter 11 papers! Bursting bubbles aside, I see some parallels in what is happening in the market now with trying to achieve data driven decision making.


Can businesses consume the information?

The upward trajectory from historical reporting towards predictive and prescriptive analysis, involves a massive amount of business change which needs to be figured in. Streamlining processes and technology is one thing, but it may mean the business requires a new set of people skills to make this happen. Human Resources have a key part to play here. Developing the future 'human-scape', in which new talent is acquired or grown - will help steady the organisation but also help it to engage with a changing future. For data driven decision making there are lots of suggestions out there about what is going to be needed, and while every business is unique you can put your money on most businesses needing deeper data skills in house (check Forbes, Eric Schmidt, Jack Ma to name a few)

DATA IS THE SWORD OF THE 21ST CENTURY, THOSE WHO WIELD IT WELL, THE SAMURAI.

Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to Larry Page and former SVP of products at Google


In addition, I'd put my money on personal adaptability and solid coms skills - two things that never seem top of mind, but can really make or break a successful hire long term.


What about adoption?

The term 'adoption' is an interesting one. Training end users assists with the adoption of the new solution by helping them do their jobs faster and with more efficiency. Going forward there will an increasing need for organisations to adopt new ways of thinking about their processes and how they harness technology. As technology takes a more prominent position in our work and home lives, it makes sense that we will interact with it differently. As my kids are heading to a world where their future jobs probably don't exist yet, so too are businesses heading towards a similar situation with the skills sets they will need throughout the business not being visible. So this may be a time to look at a principles based approach. Where some business have adopted a 'cloud first' mentality, going forward this mean that there will be an explicit desire to utilise robotics and AI for some functions, or explicitly use a hybrid of people nous and machine based learning for 'what if' scenarios. Whatever it looks like for your business, now is the time start forward planning.


Is it what the business needs?

Businesses are unique and each will progress on its data driven decision making journey differently. The pace of change will depend on the level of investments in current technology, the internal business and technology skills sets, the overall risk appetite, market competition and the perceived pain of change. In moving towards using data to inform decision making, all of these factors (and numerous other ones) will determine which direction a business will go. It's also tricky to surmount the vast swathes of information on the technology under pinning data driven decision making .

Getting to the 'right answer' will most likely be found at the intersection of functional requirements outlining the needs of the end users, and ability of any technology set to deliver it.

There is a case to be made for many ERP (for example) offering best practice in out-of-the-box functionality, and the business needs to take a view on which way to go - bespoke of OOTB. Again, it's what the business needs both now and in the future and should map the people and processes of any business.


It may be a stretch to suggest parallels between the tech bubble and a drive towards data driven decision making. I mean there isn’t a tech industry crash and burn on the horizon for one thing (well perhaps not wide spread!) but fortune favours the brave, it also favours the well prepared and nimble. If the future your envisage is data driven, now is the time to start winning the hearts and minds of your business to ensure that vision becomes a reality.




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This post was first published in December 2017

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