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Leading your business to win in the age of data insights
Tue, 5th Mar 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Enterprises have recognised data insights are necessary to drive competitive advantage. Simply accumulating and analysing data is no longer enough. Actionable insights must be placed in the hands of key business users to empower them to make decisions accordingly.

While there's no magic formula to unlock these insights, a well-communicated strategy, committed leadership and the right teams harnessing best-in-class tools, are key factors in success. Without them, an enterprise will be on a journey to no-insights.

As an executive who wants to extract actionable insights that will help your business, where do you begin and how do you gain an advantage in the age of insights?

1. Committed leadership and getting started

Strategic direction, commitment and communication from the c-suite are necessary to ensure team members not only have an overview of the business goals, but are empowered to deliver on them.

While it can seem daunting to start a data insights project with big transformational implications, the teams within your organisation must see the project as a business priority.

The senior executive team must clearly explain that the initiative has their buy-in and long term commitment.

It must be accompanied by a well thought out plan and roadmap that will deliver tangible benefits. Those fundamental building blocks need to be transparent and communicated broadly to guide all stakeholders through the journey.

Begin by identifying a specific, important and well-known business problem the company would like to tackle. This will prove the value of data insights to key opinion leaders within the organisation. Creating evangelists that support and spread the message of success will galvanise your team and get the rest of the company onboard.

When evaluating the technological requirements for the project, keep an eye on the bigger picture and build to innovate in the future, not just to achieve a short term objective. A business' data and insights landscape should be flexible enough to withstand change, secure enough to inspire confidence and durable enough to sustain long term strategic insights.

2. Make sure you have the talent in place

People, processes and technology must be aligned to achieve true and sustainable transformation. A key element to success is building a team with the right combination of business and technical acumen -- this will make or break an effective transformation.

A small, high-performing, cross-functional team that combines the best analytical, technical and business talent can experiment with different outcomes at pace and innovate quickly. If the business doesn't have the talent in-house, start planning for the future by hiring people with the skills required to solve business challenges.

Businesses should also consider embedding data scientists in different departments so they get a holistic view of the organisation. Data scientists armed with business context are more effective at understanding, identifying and solving business problems using insights.

Don't be afraid to bring in external support to upskill employees. As a global technical consultancy, Contino uses a “squad model” approach with customers, underpinned by open knowledge sharing workshops and other training. The benefits of this model include establishing a team that is self-sufficient and confident with new ways of working, rather than reliant on external IP.

3. Leverage the right tech

Leveraging the right technology for your business objectives will ensure you get the most from your insights. Serverless architectures and cloud-native services provide organisations with the ability to innovate, adapt and react at a pace and scale not previously possible.  Real insights can be delivered to the business and actioned in weeks, rather than months, and for a fraction of the cost.

Technology that leverages machine learning (ML) artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive monitoring, will allow businesses to recognise existing patterns, as well as calculate and predict future trends. Enablement and empowerment for front line users to make insightful business decisions and take action that capitalises on this intelligence is the end goal for organisations.

These insights help businesses to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market through the provision of incredible, personalised experiences for their customers.

There is a fine line, however, between personalisation and privacy, and it's important to know when personalisation has become too intrusive. Remember that consumers want to feel empowered, not targeted.

4. Keep data governance front of mind

With the GDPR and the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme now in force, businesses must take the necessary steps to safeguard their customer's information and avoid getting into the media for the wrong reasons.

A business is responsible for the data it collects, especially customer-related data. All organisations must have a robust data security and governance strategy. Part of this is understanding what data the business collects and why its collected. There's no value in accumulating data for data's sake.

Data is one of a business' best assets for staying ahead of the curve, but only when it's leveraged effectively. With the right organisational planning, technology and commitment, data becomes actionable intelligence that drives competitive advantage and more informed decision-making.

Operating in this way will inevitably improve the business' overall performance across all of its key metrics, and in today's ultra-competitive landscape, who is not motivated to achieve that? Ultimately, it is up to business leaders to put their hands up to implement the right conditions for their organisations to get the most out of their data journey.