The most resilient companies during the Covid-19 crisis have not only been more digitalised than their rivals, but they have also used trusted data as a strategic asset. These companies have analysed their data to gain powerful insights into what is happening at a local, industry and global level. They have then used these insights to undertake forecasting and scenario planning that has informed robust decision-making.
While data is core to business resilience in the current environment, it will also help to accelerate business growth in the ‘evolving normal’. I believe there are four key considerations for leaders looking to unlock the value of data as we head into the future:
1. Trusted data enables better decision-making. It supports companies to plan for different scenarios and make the right decisions. Trusted data is high-quality, meaningful, secure and legally compliant. Since trusted data should be the basis for all future decision-making, companies must make the strategic decision to implement a trusted data fabric. This fabric is a platform that can be used to manage all the data across multiple functions in a company. Companies that don’t invest in having trusted data, and providing central governance around that data, will find it very difficult to compete in the longer term, or perhaps even to survive the current crisis.
2. Data is an essential component of business transformation. Over the next three to five years, most business workflows will be disrupted by the application of data and artificial intelligence (AI). Efficiency will be prioritised because it underpins business survival. If we take power and utilities as an example, we can expect disruption of the billing workflow, call centres, customer onboarding, customer service, and distribution. Document intelligence will also be used to glean insights from large volumes of information. Ultimately, data and AI will reinvent the entire end-to-end value chains of industries. Companies that recognise the strategic value of data will be the leaders in digital transformation, giving them a competitive position in the market.
Information Age roundtable: Harnessing the power of data in the utilities sector
3. Humans belong at the centre. It is often said that data and AI are starting to replace humans. But I believe they are actually an opportunity to enhance the experience of customers, employees and other company stakeholders. For example, the process of recruiting new staff can be managed much more effectively using data and AI. Similarly, data and AI enable companies to better understand their customers and build stronger, more valuable relationships with them.
4. Data sharing is an opportunity. The pandemic has highlighted the value of data since having and sharing information on individuals will be key to defeating the virus. So, in the evolving normal, we can expect more data-sharing platforms – platforms that allow the public sector to share information with the private sector and platforms that allow different companies within the private sector to share information with each other. Boundaries between sectors will blur over time and regulation will adapt to accommodate data sharing. It is essential that data sharing is anonymised, but there are already platforms that enable companies to share their data in separate environments where each company can define and set their own security controls. Anonymised data sharing will undoubtedly bring new opportunities for businesses in future. To seize these opportunities, however, they will need trusted data, a data fabric, effective controls and central governance. In sectors that have been badly affected by Covid-19, data sharing may be the only way for some companies to grow.
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The faster that companies can apply technology, the quicker they can meet evolving customer expectations, support and engage their employees, and create competitive advantage. That’s why real digital transformation occurs when companies embed technology at speed and aim to innovate at scale. The major tech giants spend comparatively little time developing proof of concepts. Instead, they embed AI straight into their operations, enabling them to get smarter by the second. If other companies follow this example, they will have an opportunity to lead on disruption and transformation within their sector.
Going forward, we will see even greater use of data to support activities associated with enterprise resilience, such as financial planning, scenario planning and supply chain reviews. With data continuing to proliferate exponentially, we will also see more migration of data to the cloud, giving companies the benefit of increased efficiency and security. Yet trusted data will remain the most important future trend of all. Unless companies have platforms that enable trusted data, they will fail to achieve a successful digital transformation and struggle to compete in the market.
Trusted data is not the latest business fad. It is the new default.