People, Data and Machines: Three tenets for successful data driven business

While data, like gold, has value even in an uncertain economy – and when properly mined, it can create value, drive competitive advantage, and power true business change, it comes with a challenge

Updated: Mar 29, 2018 12:26:37 PM UTC
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There’s a new kid on the C-suite block – the Chief Data Officer (CDO), whose job is to mine the treasure trove of data residing within their enterprise for insights that can power growth and innovation. The importance of this role cannot be underestimated – according to Forrester, companies with mature big data and analytics strategies are two times more likely to see significant improvements to their top-line revenue growth, or other similar benefits.

Yet, while 90 percent of large organisations will have hired a CDO by 2019, according to Gartner, only 50 percent will be hailed a success. Why?

While data, like gold, has value even in an uncertain economy – and when properly mined, it can create value, drive competitive advantage, and power true business change, it comes with a challenge.

The amount of data available is rising all the time, and fast outpacing our ability to understand and apply it. IDC predicts that by 2025, we will be creating and replicating 163ZB of data, a tenfold increase since 2016. In order to mine all of that information, the data leaders of tomorrow need a strategy to unlock value across the entirety of this treasure trove, and quickly. They need to find their golden ratio – of people, data and machines.

People are at the heart of every data-driven business. Just as jewellers increase the value of gold by turning it into decorative ornaments, staff skilled in statistical analysis and machine learning within the enterprise can get more value from data by turning it into insights.

Finding the right talent and enough of it, is key to any business seeking success in today’s data-driven economy, and it continues to be a challenge. More than a third of businesses in Asia-Pacific cite skill shortages as one of the top three challenges in executing their data strategy .

While a key focus is on finding data scientists, they aren’t the only resource needed. Data-savvy business managers who can understand the organisation and can leverage analytics are equally necessary. From their knowledge of sales and marketing, for example, they are well-placed to better understand campaign performance. In Human Resources, it’s about seeing patterns in employee attrition and talent progression. In Finance, it's about visualising profit and growth drivers.

The role of machines, as a balance to people, cannot be underestimated. Technology gives businesses the ability to collect, collate and connect data – and thanks to cloud, this can be done at a scale, speed and cost that was previously unaffordable to all but the largest and most dedicated enterprises. In fact, Forrester found that those companies who move more into the cloud for big data analytics achieve greater innovation, increased integration, and higher levels of security.

The cloud is also bringing new tools to the fore. Integrated insights-platforms-as-a-service are freeing data scientists from constantly struggling with clunky, disparate tools and data and allowing them to focus on innovation that can be quickly operationalised at scale. These cloud platforms also provide an ideal foundation for data labs by providing a complete and elastic analytics environment where teams can experiment with data, collaborate and share insights.

In tandem with cloud we are also seeing the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, which are helping organisations large and small learn faster than before. It has demonstrated the potential to continually improve the effectiveness of decision-making and business processes at a rate unachievable by prior methods.

Finally there is data. Simply having data isn’t enough – businesses must become wholly driven by it, using it to anticipate the future, enrich every interaction, and answer rising consumer demands for personalised products and services.

Already, data-driven businesses are forging a new path, embodied by the meteoric rise of disruptive brands with business models built on smart data use.

Neither people, machines, nor data, can successfully mine the data gold rush in isolation. But with the power of all three elements working together, businesses can tackle challenges, capture new opportunities and enjoy enormous rewards – as we’ve seen in the success of e-commerce companies in India, that are leveraging data to rethink traditional business processes.

We are now at the stage where organisations can affordably and effectively empower their people to turn information into insights; collect and connect data from within and outside the business; and utilise the best technology and machines to accelerate and augment what humans can do.

Bringing these three elements – people, data and machines – together is key to uncovering more value in a hyper-connected world. By achieving the golden ratio of the right people, the right data and the right machines, companies can unlock the full potential of data and be best poised to seek fortune in today’s data gold rush.

By Pushan Mahapatra, MD & CEO, SBI General Insurance Company Ltd and Mitesh Agarwal, VP-Key Accounts, Oracle India

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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