Data-driven competitive advantage
Organisations no longer have the luxury of calibrated knowledge management journeys that guide us on the path from data to information to knowledge and wisdom
Ganesh Natarajan June 14, 2018Last Updated at 06:23 IST
Three years ago, the digitisation of business processes and the exploration of social media, mobility, cloud computing and business intelligence was seen as the stuff winning organisations had in their DNA. Two years ago, the leading companies in every sector had already jumped the first few hurdles and were experimenting with big data, data visualisation and predictive analytics to meet the projected demands of all stakeholders better, faster and cheaper. In the last year or so, digital has truly become mainstream with most CXOs getting very comfortable with technology, engaging in design thinking and new customer journey management and embarking on major business process re- engineering programmes to truly leverage the power of both technology and data. So, what is the next frontier for the leaders?
The frontier is the data-driven organisation. In today’s highly competitive world, the success of any business is based on its ability to truly collaborate with IT to identify all possible internal and external data sources, build collaborative platforms that permit creative exploitation and exploration of all available data and content, analyse trends and patterns that emerge through this exploration to develop insights and use this intelligence across the enterprise to forecast, predict and prescribe meaningful approaches to satisfy every stakeholder.
California-based Systech, a boutique firm that specialises in advanced analytics has developed a progressive model for its Fortune 100 clients, which is also being used today by innovative firms in India and Asia. Calling it the essential transition from the traditional reactive “sense and respond” model to a much more pro-active “predict and act” approach, the firm has developed a unique iterative model with clients where the raw data from multiple sources is extracted, transactional reports and queries are facilitated and traditional descriptive analytics facilitated with dashboards and scorecards and then diagnostics provided with advanced visualisation and alerts to facilitate management decision-making.
breakaway data-driven opportunities start at this point, where most organisations feel that they have done whatever is necessary to exploit data and analytics. Organisations need to mine deeper into the data to explore new insights and use statistical and modelling tools to predict stakeholder behaviour in different market conditions. And then the big move from “what could happen” to “what should happen” as machine learning and artificial intelligence get deployed to move into the prescriptive domain. Cognitive computing is the name of the game today and its use truly brings data to life for the benefit of the organisation.
Take the case of a well-known manufacturing organisation which is taking a leaf out of the advanced data science models of financial services and retail firms and building a totally data-driven organisation. It boasts a fully wired up shop floor, data from CNC machines interacting with a constant feed from IoT sensors populating data lakes and an enterprise data warehouse and machine learning driven automation enabling predictive maintenance, self-healing machines and IoT analytics for production and maintenance managers. Add to this the total integration with the enterprise resource planning systems of the company and customer and supply chain analytics make the entire operations of the company transparent and truly data integrated. Many organisations eyeing Industry 4.0 would do well to approach cyber-physical transformation this way.
So, what really is the competitive advantage of becoming a data-driven organisation? There can be both optimisation and transformative benefits depending on the changes the organisation is prepared to undertake and implement. At the optimisation level, having a better handle on data and precision analytics enables a 360-degree view of the customer, precision in marketing campaigns, analysis of competitor strategies and success and a better approach to all stakeholders within and outside the organisation. A case in point is an insurance firm in Africa that has now launched its own wellness center chain and is helping the customer to stay healthy by tracking diet, fitness levels and recommending health regimes. This not only anticipates insurance needs, it also builds customer loyalty and it is no wonder then that this model is being taken to other parts of the world as well.
There is no better example of transformation than Ant Financials, an offshoot of Alibaba that has very quickly become the most highly valued start-up in the world with the last $10 billion funding round pegging its value at a $150 billion! Here is a truly data-driven organisation built to monetise every possible data source about the customer. Ant has access to Alibaba’s vast merchant and customer data and provides targeted solutions for financial services, insurance, wealth management, payments and credit. Apart from this, it also offers low-cost microproducts like merchandise returning insurance to Alibaba’s captive audience, yielding 37.5 per cent of its pre-tax profits to Alibaba for this data access! With over 500 million total active users and scaling rapidly, companies like Ant truly demonstrate the potential of data for building entirely new businesses.
In an increasingly competitive world, organisations no longer have the luxury of calibrated knowledge management journeys that guide us on the path from data to information to knowledge and wisdom. Capturing the power of data and using it for business advantage holds the key to competitive advantage — for firms, industries and nations!
Originally Published in Business Standard on June 14, 2018