Technology

My Journey towards Data-Driven Organization (DDO)

What I am about to talk today is something that we simply cannot run away. As the topic suggested, it is about something inevitable, that eventually we may have to face it one way or another. Benjamin Franklin once said, there were only two certain things in life; death and taxes. I would like to add another dimension to it, which is change. Change is certain, and technology is surely one of those change agents.

IR4.0 is the buzzword nowadays. Without fail, we are being reminded of how it is going to change our life. From self-driving cars to drone that can deliver our groceries, IR4.0 is going to change how we live, work and communicate. Consisting of nine pillars, it will transform everything around us, eventually warrant us to change a lot of how we do things. For the sake of today discussion, we will discuss one subset of IR4.0 which is Big Data. It is one pillar, which may seem small but the repercussion of overlooking it may leave us behind in the face of our competitor.

So what is Big Data anyway? A quick check on Google, Big Data is an extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. IBM breaks down Big Data into the infamous 4Vs, which is Velocity, Volume, Veracity and Variety. Velocity talks about how fast the data is being generated, the volume describes the size of the data, veracity is all about the truthfulness of the data, while variety is all about the type of data being generated. Other Vs are being defined, but for the sake of discussion, we are going to focus on these 4Vs.

Realizing the true potential of Big Data, many companies are trying to capitalize on the data that they have and come out with something useful from it. Research has shown that companies that embarking on Big Data journey can outperform its competitors. So everybody seems to be wanting to jump into the bandwagon. But was it a good enough justification to jump into the pool, to swim and to expect we get something tangible out of big data implementation? The fact that, based on the Gartner, 85% of big data implementation failed or abandoned mid-way, make us wonder why it is difficult to get it right. It is therefore imperative for organizations to understand why it takes more than just a technology. It is not only a one-night-stand affair but a journey that need to address the process, people and technology requirement.

The process part will need to touch on the need for how we govern the use of data within the group. If we look at how technology companies such as Facebook and Google, they started with their business with data in mind. Having accumulated data since the beginning, the transition toward data-driven is seamless. Traditional businesses may have the difficulty to move toward data-driven, as their data was scattered all around. The consolidation of these data can become a taxing task. Having no governance of how these data are being managed will make it more stressful to manage. There is a high need to come out with the data governance process within the group that can simplify our journey into a data-driven organization.

It goes without saying that technology plays a big role in DDO journey. After all, there is no data if the technology is not there to generate it. And true enough, there is a lot of technology currently that is capable to help with the implementation. The question is which is the best one? And does the most expensive translate to better technology? In my experience managing technology within the group, it may not necessarily be the answer. The best choice will always the best fit into your requirement, no matter what cost it constitutes. We once conducted a study to understand what technology is needed for us to embark on big data. Obviously, being a vendor, they always like to push for their solutions ($$$). But, when we go back to the actual objectives on implementing big data, most of our users seem clueless about what big data is all about. Even if we deploy the best of the breed in technology, we run a chance into turning them as the white elephant. Do we want to risk our reputation and money into that, or should we conduct our journey as and when we see it fit our requirement. Because of that, we decided to pick and choose use cases that are very relevant to our business and just focus on implementing those use case. At least, we limit our exposure to those limited costs. Somehow the strategy is being accepted by the management and we are hoping to turn some of those into a viable project.

However, the most important aspect of the journey is how our people adapt to the transformation that we are embarking. As the mantra goes, people are the most valuable asset in any organizations. There is no denying that for any transformation to be successful, we need to ensure our people will understand and embrace the change to their heart. Being data-driven means that we will embrace data, and use it for our day-to-day decision making. This would entail the need for us to be able to story tell our data in the most meaningful way, thus making sure it can back up any of our claims. It is no longer about gut feeling. Now it is the time that gut feeling is substantiated with quantified data. This is surely a major shift and may rethink on how we make use of those data to come out with insightful finding. Therefore, we must understand how to perform those analysis and present it in the most meaningful manner. And this would require us to master the right skillsets such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Algorithm and so on. It is therefore not surprising that the New York Times voted that Data Scientist is one of the sexiest jobs of the 21st century.

The Journey towards the DDO would need to address all these requirements before some of the results will be visible. All the three components would need to come in tandem, otherwise, it is going to be a lost cause. It is not surprising that to leverage fully the use of Big Data and eventually transform one to DDO, many organizations are making this as one of the strategic initiatives. Some are even setting up specific divisions just to handle big data initiatives. A lot has poured many into the divisions with the hope that they are going to go to the greater height. Despite the risk of failure will always be there, as long as these three intertwined components are being adhered too, we will not go wrong and will be able to reap the benefits of DDO.

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