Some technologies are inherently sexy. Take artificial intelligence. It is likely to take over the vast majority of process-driven work within the next 15 years, from driving vehicles to trading on the stock exchange. Indeed, this technology may shape the world of business and beyond more than any innovation that has gone before it, and there is a seemingly never-ending media narrative around its potential.
When it comes to technologies like this, businesses are often keen to jump on the bandwagon quickly. Leaders commit time and resources to consider how such technology can be best used to improve their organization, and certain industries like manufacturing have already adopted digital transformation and automation technology wholeheartedly. A recent study undertaken by Pod Group, a provider of platforms, software and connectivity services for the Internet of Things (of which I am Chairman), revealed that in response to Covid-19, almost two-thirds (63%) of business leaders expect their companies to speed up plans to replace processes carried out by employees with automation technology.
This is great when done for the right reasons – but best practice would be for business leaders to drive use of these technologies as part of a wider strategic push for digital transformation. This means recognizing that it’s not just the ‘sexy’ technologies that need to be used to their greatest potential.
Take data as an example. Most, if not all, business leaders now recognize the importance of data in terms of its potential to provide invaluable insights that can power strategic decision-making across nearly all facets of a business. Yet many of us are still guilty of finding our eyes glazing over at the very mention of ‘data management’ as a concept, as it brings with it connotations of spreadsheets and acronym-entitled regulations. Moreover, many C-suite executives, despite their best intentions, still struggle to leverage the full potential of the data held by their organization.
Data often exists in silos, with the bigger picture obscured from view. Even though many businesses now use at least a proportion of their data assets to great effect, the problem nowadays is that it is possible for any business to create and hold data almost by accident. The result of this in many cases is that business leaders have no idea what valuable, game-changing information is hiding amongst the data held by their organization, and only a small proportion of that data is being properly leveraged into further automation and sexy, business-transforming, improvements.
This is a common problem. In a study conducted by Gemalto in 2018, it was found that 65% of organizations can’t analyze or categorize all the consumer data they store. Part of the problem is that many organizations still rely on manual solutions to data management, not understanding that automated data discovery is crucial.
Danny Reeves, CEO of data discovery platform, Exonar, comments:
“There are whole departments in companies dedicated to performing data discovery work, searching manually through a business’s entire data estate to pinpoint specific assets that could sit anywhere in the enterprise, and in any format. It’s a huge job, and only allows a business to look for data that it already knows about.”
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there are companies and enterprises dedicated to assisting businesses to manage their data assets. These include the likes of Varonis and BigID, both of which assist companies to understand the data they hold so they can adequately protect it from the risk of a data breach – the first port of call for any company looking to hold and leverage sensitive data.
Like Exonar, some of these businesses also help organizations with ‘data discovery’. Reeves continues:
“Data is intrinsic to [AI and automation] technologies, but knowing what data you’ve got in your organization and having the ability to find it quickly and easily is crucial to leveraging it as an asset.”
The point of data discovery software is to look at all of an organization’s structured and unstructured data to create a searchable index, which allows companies that hold a lot of data across one or multiple organizations to easily identify and utilize the data they hold. Data discovery is crucial in theory, because this could empower businesses across a variety of sectors to better leverage their data assets to their full potential, identifying previously buried information, and freeing up human brain space to dedicate time to analyzing that information for valuable insights. Ultimately though, the sexiness of categorizing all your data assets into a searchable format depends on how your business sees data to begin with – if you don’t act on that data once its potential is revealed, then nothing about your business will change.
Although businesses recognize the potential of data, it can be hard to get as excited about it as they might for other, seemingly more glamorous technologies. It can be tempting to neglect the, for want of a better word, more dull elements of digital transformation in favor of those that garner more admiration and attention. This could mean, however, that even companies using data well may be failing to fully maximize the value of the assets they hold.
Approaching digital transformation in a well-rounded and strategic way that is designed to best push your business forward should always be the goal. This means exploring the full potential of the sexy and the potentially drier aspects of technology. Data is the most important example of this. Only by ensuring that all of your technology assets are working hard and collaboratively as parts of a well-oiled digital machine can true transformation be achieved. And realizing true meaningful digital transformation that future-proofs your company is the sexiest achievement of all.
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