I have worked with data for many years, particularly at Thomson Reuters and at dunnhumby where data was their life-blood. I have also worked at companies which had powerful data but which they did not know how to use effectively. I have seen boards frustrated at the inability of their company to deliver on "Digital" or "Analytics" and unlock the value that everyone says is there. Since I have worked across many different industries and company types, I looked for a common thread to explain this enigma.
It actually comes down to company culture, structure and policies.
In the late 1960s, Conway's Law emerged. This law was defined as "Any organisation that designs a system will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organisation's communication structure". I can attest that this law still holds true today. What I know is that any organisation that wants to use data to scale successfully must remove the barriers to sharing that data across the organisation.
Big Data isn't a magic art where your next client or product idea emerges from the data. Big Data only works when people come together who understand that data, ask the important business questions and generate the appropriate solutions.
Imagine a company that ensures that all data can be seen by all analysts in all the main functional areas. The connections between the data collected by Sales, Product Design, Support Desk and Commercial Strategy teams can then be leveraged to maximum commercial benefit. With an open culture, the analysts will also identify additional non-obvious functional areas such as Accounts Payable or Procurement.
A company that leverages its data so effectively is going to be very clear on its unique value proposition. It will make decisions which drive their market and market share and also extend their relationships with their most loyal, engaged and profitable clients.
Now imagine a company where data is siloed and restricted - sales being the only people allowed to see sales data and so on. Accordingly, sales will be reliant on a single data source to identify good clients or new prospects. They are highly likely to miss evidence that their clients, for example, are increasingly focused on only one area of their products.
How does this impact your strategy?
Put simply, when thinking about your company culture, structure and policies, you need to think across the 'normal' company divisions and design for sharing. You need to trust your staff with your data. You need to build in the understanding that data is only powerful when shared. The worst sin is to isolate and shackle data.
1. Be clear on what questions you want the data to answer.
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