Investments and priorities for recovery and growth
It’s a reality we’re all facing together: there’s no silver-bullet solution or strategic guidebook on how to re-balance and recover amidst COVID-19. The pandemic has left many organizations exposed in their day-to-day operations, and the need for real-time insights has revealed gaps in the capabilities needed to access, mobilize and utilize data. While the value of treating data as capital is widely recognized, getting it right – quickly - has never been more critical. Leaders have become ‘data-hungry,’ with CEOs looking for insights 24/7, often times across domains. Their first call? Their Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) or Chief Data Officer (CDO). Seasoned in shaping analytics and technology initiatives and executing on the business agenda set by their C-level counterparts, CAOs/CDOs are now, in many cases, setting and defining corporate priorities and a data and AI strategy that can be used to answer immediate needs while creating a more resilient and adaptable business. This added responsibility is elevating their roles from critical to imperative for organizations undergoing transformation.
CDOs/CAOs, working hand-in-hand with their Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), CFO and other business leaders across functions, are starting to examine each decision and every action through a new lens. What investments and priorities will create future-ready capabilities and yield the highest ROI through recovery and return to sustainable growth? Commercial strategy remains essential, but it’s intertwined with the democratization of data and analytics and adoption of emerging technologies as critical priorities that cannot be kicked down the road. Now is the time to explore how to flexibly scale and implement a data and AI strategy that clearly articulates business value- all with the goal of future-proofing their businesses against further uncertainty.
3 critical priorities for investment
There is still a level of distrust in (or even confusion about) AI, which may cause challenges for business leaders who are finally on board with the “scale or fail” approach but have yet to bring their teams along for the ride. It will be critical to cultivate confidence in data and AI, designing the right governance structure to allow humans and machines to collaborate while maintaining ethical, regulatory and security compliance. And just as critical, be able to articulate the business and technical challenges AI can solve and the efficiencies it creates for stakeholders across the organization.
As our clients take steps towards recovery, we’ve been partnering with CAOs and CDOs to reprioritize technology and human capital investments to maximize business impact in the near- and long term. Here are three areas we recommend tackling first:
Our clients are starting to look at simplification of their systems and vendor ecosystem. This requires identifying where functional gaps exist, which applications align with the business strategy and where to streamline critical infrastructure for ongoing operations. This modernization yields a simpler infrastructure – often built with only 2-3 vendors – to fuel the needs of your analytics and AI programs while masking the underlying complexity of the back-end systems from the business user. In the case of moving to a cloud environment, you can ramp up your organizational speed and agility by restructuring architectures, applications and data for cloud - critical to meet the heightened need for a holistic view of insights and performance metrics for smarter decision-making. Just as importantly, it will allow for the integration of new intelligence (for example, in the form of intelligent automation) to help create more connected and perceptive processes that can quickly optimize for changing market conditions.
Effective consolidation enables better cross-functional integration. As requests for visibility and access to data increase, so does the need for an integrated insights platform…a common data foundation. Data professionals living in the silos of their own functions are being asked to ‘cross the border’ into domains outside of 1) their area of expertise 2) their own systems… often with little governance and processes around what users can or cannot do with the data. The constant (and rapid) evolution of business requests has shed light on the criticality of functional convergence and an industrialization of data so it can be shared and scaled in one borderless data ecosystem. We are seeing that data democratization alone can deliver 30-70% improvement in productivity, which becomes even more critical as AI programs take priority. Cloud becomes a catalyst for the strategic use of data, advanced analytics and AI with an opportunity to leverage data at scale, improve its quality and unlock its value with applied intelligence. When decisions can be based on accurate, reliable data, it builds trust - and you can be confident that you have a single source of truth driving decisions across the organization. In a way, data becomes the universal language of business.
And, perhaps the most critical investment, is in your people – your human capital. To create a company of believers, you must have their buy-in that the mission of data-driven reinvention is the critical differentiator for the organization to survive. To build awareness and trust in AI programs designed to drive organizational success and outcomes, you need to introduce a culture of confidence and individual enablement. Skilling, upskilling and reskilling can contribute to higher employee satisfaction because you’re giving people opportunities to be more flexible and identify new areas for professional development and growth. The goal is to build a culture that educates and equips individuals to adopt a new way of thinking and be open to new approaches, even in the face of rapid change and uncertainty. Your technology is a business enabler, but it is your people who are the driving force behind it.
Leveraging our investments for long-term opportunity
By tackling these three areas for prioritization in tandem, you’ll effectively be putting data and AI at the core of every decision and action moving forward. To build resiliency, you’re really reinventing or reshaping what business strategy looks like to align with rapidly changing goals. Previous models that were used to forecast demand, calculate buyer propensity, predict potential disruptions to your supply chain or identify operational inefficiencies are likely no longer valid. By leveraging cloud as a digital transformation lever, you can create a foundation for rapid experimentation, innovation and new business models – required to stay ahead of what’s next. It’s now possible (and necessary) to reframe your questions to be focused on preparing for the future. How are you accounting for future uncertainty? How can you optimize your systems to not just forecast, but to extend the opportunity to create more value and visibility moving forward? Resiliency may be the primary focus for the foreseeable future, but it also paves the way for a return to sustainable growth.
Organizations should be exploring new commercial strategies to identify growth opportunities in previously untapped areas. Having simplified your tech ecosystem and created a common data foundation, consider the benefit of something like a digital finance tower – enabling you to understand financials from across the enterprise and see AI-powered recommendations for what moves to make next. Or, think about capitalizing on the AI capabilities in your tech stack. Can you start optimizing your processes for outcomes instead of outputs? Consider what might happen if you were to connect and automate processes across marketing, sales, supply chain and finance so one decision could create a dynamic ripple effect across your organization to optimize for the highest performance. It’s all possible when the right building data and AI blocks are in place, and your people are bought in to drive the change.
The journey to recovery for any organization is a complex one. No two organizations will follow the same path and your desired destination can look different depending on where you are in recovery. We’re passionate about putting the emphasis back on the human aspect of business – how an organization can enhance and augment the experiences of their employees and customers by infusing their model with better intelligence powered by analytics and AI. By investing in simplifying your technology ecosystem, breaking down data silos and building a data-driven culture of confidence, business leaders, led by CAOs and CDOs can guide more strategic conversations to prioritize transformational change both near-term and for the future.