Digital transformation has commanded thousands of column inches over the past few years and millions of hours of time, meetings and investment. Digital continues to deliver incredible changes to new and existing business processes, as well as the customer experience.
There is no doubt that disruptors such as Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Purple and Netflix have all used the digital landscape to reimagine traditional sectors finding better, faster, smarter and cheaper ways to reach their customers.
Meanwhile more established businesses have adopted digital technology to offer their customers greater flexibility and an omnichannel experience through the adoption of services such as click and collect or the development of branded apps. There are also a lot of business processes that have been pushed down (or maybe even outsourced) to the customer also, under the guise of putting the customer in control.
The question. however. is whether digital transformation is distracting too many people and too many companies from the biggest challenge and opportunity – data transformation?
The power of data transformation
Every organisation has data and lots of it. Traditionally data was the domain of the IT department and it was used to drive business critical systems and business intelligence. Then, as CRM and digital marketing came to the fore, the marketing department muscled in and developed its own data. Now every part of the business eco-system is bringing new data – from IoT, supply chain and logistics to open and public data sources.
Too often data is siloed by the structure of organisations, their ways of working, business processes and by a raft of legacy technology sitting alongside the latest technology and cloud solutions. Data isn’t powerful when it is owned by the few – its power comes being owned and used by the entire enterprise. This way it can deliver tangible business benefits rather than aiding simple functional objectives.
Moving from buzzword to agent of business change
All of this can only happen though with data transformation – when your technology and tools allow you to have the right data, in the right place, at the right time to support the right decisions.
Such a statement a few years ago was a pipedream but developments in AI, cloud technology, massive increases in computational power and flexible ways of bringing structure and unstructured data together are making this the art of the possible.
Data transformation is about moving big data from a buzzword to an agent of business change and growth – and doing this with computational speed and automation so you don’t need an army of data scientists to make this work.
The results can be astonishing; the impossible becomes the possible. For instance, we recently monetised the data of a mobile company, taking inspiration from the astrophysics principle of Dispersion of Light and applying it to mobile and cell tower signals.
This enabled us to build a Retail Viability Index for shopping centres which meant the movement of different segments of audiences across various retail outlets could be measured and predicted.
For a well-known restaurant chain we created a model which automates decision making for the 14 lunch and dinner sessions a week across their 157 restaurant portfolio. The model helps them to predict optimal offers, cover turnover, spend per head, volume of customers and mix of orders. It was built using two years of training data and, to ensure decision making is as effective as possible, influencers such as seasonality, bank holidays, car parking and changing offer partners were factored in.
Digital transformation has had its day. Now is the time for data transformation.
Simon Hay is chief executive of Outra