Back in 1997, Apple Computer, Inc., created an advertising campaign, “To the Crazy Ones,” with the tagline “Think different.” At the time Apple was so different from the predominant computer company, IBM, it was looking to create momentum for what they offered, which was quite different. 

We are at a crossroads within the technology sector where doing things as we always have is counterproductive to many companies’ goals. There is new technology to utilize. There are strategies to drive businesses forward with greater productivity and efficiency. And, there are new tools that many businesses have not considered nor embraced. This environmental change – in both mindset and the explosive world of IoT, AI, robotics and augmented reality — has forced many businesses to “think different.”

“What I have learned in my last few years is that the power of fear is quite tremendous in evolving oneself to think and act differently today, and to ask questions today that we weren’t asking about our roles before.“ 

 – Murli Buluswar, Chief Science Officer, AIG for the McKinsey interviews: How companies are using big data and analytics, April 2016

I’ve seen strategic shortfalls when the company visionaries don’t get internal support, budgets are not properly planned for technology investments and staff does not adopt the new direction. Then, there are leaders who have been successful in presenting their story about the future state of the company, have received the proper support to fund the future and have generated significant employee momentum. For them, the future looks bright — very bright. 

Big Data Shortfall

When a new technology or new process is introduced, often the focus is on main operations. This is where the analytics can become secondary, and we see a shortfall with the significance of big data. The role of big data in driving a cultural change and a strategic change results when data is brought to the forefront of new operations. If your company has not given big data a higher profile within your operations, you are missing the value that new forms of information can provide to your overall strategic picture.

Data Informs Strategy

Strategy Leverages Technology

Technology Delivers Data

Yes, there have always been financial analysts and marketing analysts, but today, there is so much more data available to decision-makers from “smart” systems that monitor processes (like Enterprise Content Management [ECM] solutions). With the ability to gather data from many internal sources, companies have the opportunity to work smarter by taking action based on new insights. In fact, the definition of “smart” has gained definitions associated with technological know-how and machine intelligence rather than simply “book smarts.”  

Definition of smart

7 a :  being a guided missile a laser-guided smart bomb
b :  operating by automation a smart machine tool
c :  intelligent 
— Seventh definition of “smart” from Merriam-Webster.com

Data Informs Strategy

One challenge with embracing big data and incorporating it into a business is finding the talent needed to gather that data and offer it to the business units so that they can use it and take action. By adding data into the equation, we are looking for a data scientist who has not only analytical skills, but also communication skills to help the innovators understand the implications of the data so they can use it. Whether from internal or external experts, the companies that have to overcome the challenge of finding the right talent to help them wrangle the relevant information from their data are the companies who are riding the crest of the innovation curve. 

A Data Scientist is someone who makes value out of data. ... Data Scientist duties typically include creating various Machine Learning-based tools or processes within the company, such as recommendation engines or automated lead scoring systems. People within this role should also be able to perform statistical analysis.
www.toptal.com/data-science/job-description

As companies innovate, upgrade their software tools, incorporate AI into their operations and throw off more data, they need to have in place the talent to leverage the data. Without it, they will soon find that they are at a disadvantage versus their competitors where the transformational leaders have already established their goals, made their changes and are well-positioned for driving their future strategic direction. 

Strategy Leverages Technology

Taking action that is driven by data results is a different way of operating for many businesses. For the business, learning from the data scientist -- who is not just an analyst but a translator – it empowers the decision-makers to innovate and “think different” – in their future-state. McKinsey & Co. calls this “capturing the impact of analytics.”

Whether print jobs, supply chain, marketing, sales, mortgage processing or accounting workflows, technology is providing the means to design a new strategy. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “don’t put the cart before the horse.” Different thinkers are always putting the cart before the horse – innovating, examining, designing new functionality, expanding capabilities – and then figuring out how they will get it to work. 

Remember when Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, predicted that drones would be delivering packages to our homes? That was long before anyone considered such an application of the technology. Inventing something new or applying new technology (“innovating”) involves the ability to look, learn, and act with new ideas that give your business a competitive advantage and renewed success. 

Technology Delivers Data

What does this mean for the business that is not looking toward improving or upgrading its technology?  They are saddled with multi-platforms, often home-grown, legacy systems that they have been patching. Do they know that they need more functionality? Yes. They do. But, without the advocate or visionary to drive the strategy that supports the technological changes – the business is stuck. In fact, they are going backward by standing still. 

“The goldmine of data is a pivot-point moment…”
— McKinsey & Company, http://tinyurl.com/McKinseyresearch

The ability to get the data or “mine that gold” relies on innovation. So even a company that has embraced new technology has to continue to innovate – understand what technology offers and how to use what they see. It is a continuous process of innovation and improvement which means business leaders needs to review, re-evaluate and repeat their own assessment of where the company needs to evolve. 

Vince Campisi, Chief Information Officer at GE Software (speaking to McKinsey for “How Companies are “Using Big Data and Analytics”) shows us how data impacted their supply chain operations: “We’ve been able to take over 60 different silos of information related to direct material purchasing, leverage analytics to look at new relationships, and use machine learning to identify tremendous amounts of efficiency in how we procure direct materials that go into our product.”

The impact of big data is significant:  there is the potential to twist the planning and development process in a new direction, to seek new talent unlike you’ve needed before and to find financial gains. The key is to be ready and able to find the information from the data, deliver it to the experts and to make change happen. 

Joanne E. Novak
Joanne E. Novak

is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for ECM.