How to Achieve Data-Driven Business Transformation

When it comes to business transformation, technology is often the first thing we think of. However, it is, in fact, the data being used by that technology, which drives transformation. After all, the key to success or failure within a business is how decisions are made across the organisation. As such, data is becoming a critical enterprise asset. 

Advanced analytics is an essential competency in today’s digital world. It enables businesses to make informed decisions, get ahead of the competition and drive strategic growth. However, with the rapid pace of digital transformation and the surge of data that it creates, extracting value is both the key to success and one of the biggest challenges. Data needs to be nurtured properly if it is to be effective. 

What is Data-Driven Transformation

Many organisations are still very much focused on digital transformation being purely about technology. While it is indeed technology that will help create digital platforms and experiences for internal teams and customers, this is far from the end of the process. The only way to provide meaningful customer experiences is to integrate data into the applications and systems. 

Data-driven transformation is all about empowering innovation and using digital technology to find better ways of solving problems with data. Data can be leveraged to boost productivity, develop business and create value. However, to achieve this, first, everything needs to be transformed into data. After this, everything can be transformed via data. 

The Importance of Viewing Data as a Holistic Asset

There is a huge volume of data within every business and it needs to be used rather than ignored. However, as businesses undergo digital transformation, it can become overwhelming. The sheer volume, velocity and complexity need to be managed while ensuring security and governance at all times. And the complexity of data can’t be tackled using technology alone. Investing in a data warehouse won’t solve the problem. What is actually needed is to look at the whole organisation and ensure there is responsibility for the data. 

It’s all well and good to put data into new fancy systems and applications, but it doesn’t mean that the systems won’t need support. There is a lot to consider: policies, governance, the architecture, the flow and the people who will be using it. While data itself is pretty simple, harnessing the power of people is what enables it to shine. Data should drive the whole digital agenda, but people need to drive the data. Data runs throughout the whole organisation and creates a value chain. What this means is how data builds up from its point of collection to its point of use. It may pass-through operations, HR, finance and touch many other places on the way. 

When it comes to looking at data holistically, it isn’t just about processing, visualisation or analytics, as important as these aspects are. It’s about the quality of data, how and where it’s stored, how it’s collected and how it will be used. As a key asset, it should be treated in the same way as other assets, holistically. 

Where to start with Data-Driven Transformation

When it comes to data-driven business transformation, the key is that data needs to be the focus instead of technology or digital. Then people are needed to deliver the creativity to mobilise that data, keep it safe and ensure it is used ethically. With data-driven transformation, the process is humanised, delivering value that everyone can benefit from. There are some key stages that are required to achieve this:

  • Employ a Data Champion – once a business has accepted that data should be viewed holistically, it needs to ensure there is someone who is accountable and responsible for the use and value of that data. This is often a person, a business leader, who will be on hand to champion the data. 
  • Benchmark Data Maturity – benchmarking around data maturity is the next step. Businesses need to understand where they are as a whole to dictate the type of transformation journey they can realistically go on. 
  • Create a Strategy – a data transformation strategy document should align with business objectives and fit in with the overarching business transformation goals for the future. 
  • Engage the Business – a data strategy should be understandable for people throughout the business and they should all be invested in its success. Continually educating and messaging are needed to build data literacy and ensure there is an understanding of the data value chain.  

Ultimately, data-driven business transformation isn’t a process; it’s a continual way of being and a mindset and cultural shift for the whole organisation. It supports agile methodologies, dynamic and continuous change and an ever-evolving end state and vision. 

Preparing Your Business for the Future of Data

Whatever plans you have for transformation within your business, what is almost certain is that there is going to be more data. This will increasingly be unstructured data from external data sources as well as internal data. To be able to harness all this data, data literacy and skills are going to need to increase. There will also be a lot more ethics surrounding data. Not only will your business need to consider security and governance, but how artificial intelligence and machine learning use data. Data will be taken more seriously, seen as an asset and protected as such. 

Data is the foundation that a lot of future technologies stand upon. Getting it right can make all the difference and that should start from the very beginning. Start your digital transformation by seeing data in a holistic way, and you’ll be in a much stronger position to use it to its full potential in the future. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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