Not letting a crisis go to waste – Capitalising on Covid-19 to reset your data strategy

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, many public and private sector enterprises were at various stages of their respective digital transformation journeys. According to Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, we have experienced the equivalent of 2 years of digital adoption in the first 2 months since the pandemic started. The global pandemic has therefore compelled organisations to accelerate their digital strategies in order to rapidly adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Data and cloud computing are the biggest weapons that companies need to fight and drive digital transformation if they wish to emerge more lean, agile and innovative in the post-Covid-19 digital economy. Data however remains at the heart of digital transformation.

In respect of data, these are the 3 biggest challenges confronting organisations;

● knowing what data actually matters,
● effectively using cloud-computing,
● selecting the best methods of analysis.

Those who master the ability to effectively leverage data to reduce the cost to operate, develop new revenue streams and achieve customer experience, will be the winners in the digital economy. Getting it right requires significant organisational, technology realignment and change management. Covid-19 is a typically catalytic event that drives or accelerates such massive organisational transformation and change.

Many organisations have unfortunately struggled to effectively align their IT, digital and data strategies. The adoption of digital technology, big data and machine learning and cloud computing resulted in the need for specialised data and computing skills. The most in-demand skills over the last 5 years have been chief data officers, data scientists and data engineers. It has been a major challenge integrating these new functions into the traditional IT organisation, as they each fight for dominance. This battle for supremacy will not magically resolve itself because of the increased urgency to accelerate digital transformation. Covid-19 provides an opportunity for a reset.

There has also been a major “hyping-up” of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The latest Gartner hype cycle indicates that many AI-related technologies are ascending to what it calls its “peak of inflated expectations.” The ROI on big data, machine learning and AI investments, for digitally-aspiring businesses, has been under-whelming. Increasingly, many executives are also becoming fearful of using ‘black-box’ analytics to make major strategic and operational decisions.

C-suite executives question the trustworthiness of data, analytics and intelligent automation.
92% admitted they are worried about the reputational damage that inappropriate use of analytics could cause for their organisation.(Forrester, Guardians of Trust, 2020)

Ironically, this “trust-gap” is increasing at the same time when organisations have an opportunity to become more data-driven by embracing automation and advanced analytics. The trust deficit can however only be addressed through transparency and understanding of the value created through the consumption, use and distribution of data. This makes it easier to quantify the value and return on investment.

The data that impacts and drives the modern enterprise is however elusive, ever-changing and difficult to quantify. Realising value from data involves continuously working on projects that demonstrably and cost-effectively generate value and increase trust. This requires partners who not only understand data science and computing, but know how to monetise data and create a sustainable data culture throughout the organisation.

In resetting your digital strategy and journey as a result of Covid-19, you might want to think differently about the data partners that can help get you all the way here.