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Maximizing the data and digitalization revolution

(Image credit: Shutterstock / whiteMocca)

The global pandemic has forced businesses of all sizes to rethink and restructure their operations, both physically and digitally. One of the most obvious results of this transformation is the increasing reliance on data to preserve business continuity, enhance profitability and improve overall operational efficiency. The radical change in circumstances has also made it clear that leveraging data can provide a swift and effective way to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly vigorous and dynamic commercial environment.

However, businesses that moved to a data-orientated operational model now need to transition from what was essentially a ‘survival phase’. They have to assess how to maximize the available opportunities in becoming a data-driven enterprise, while also considering the potential challenges. 

By thoroughly analyzing how rapid digital shifts actually need to be, businesses can prevent one of the major challenges: inadvertently adopting a ‘tech debt’ of costly quick fixes that don’t deliver future success. Consistently mapping the speed of digitization against agreed objectives is a good first step but it is also important to understand how an investment can be scaled, safely and securely, to ensure business continuity is maintained.

For businesses to reap the optimum benefits from their data it is crucial that they maintain a balance between being data ‘driven’ and being data ‘informed’. The latter helps businesses make the right decisions at the right time through access to real-time information. It makes data accessible and focused on service-level provisions to ensure a positive impact on internal teams as well as customers. A range of technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, have a role to play in enhancing the customer experience through the provision of data-based insights.

Ducking debt during the digital shift

Looking again at the concept of ‘tech debt’, a recent study conducted by McKinsey revealed that 60 percent of the CIOs surveyed felt that their organization’s technology debt had risen considerably over the past three years. This problem is being made worse as between 10 and 20 percent of technology budgets for new products are being diverted to resolving issues arising from existing tech debt, according to the research.

The origins of this liability are generally easy to identify by studying how businesses initially embraced technology as a way to overcome various issues and challenges. Back then, many of the implementations used quick fixes and off-the-shelf solutions, which resulted in poorly integrated applications. Technologies from different vendors were also frequently pieced together in an unplanned way, resulting in an execution that didn’t work effectively as a whole.

Rather than providing workable improvements, many executions quickly had an adverse impact on productivity and the customer experience. Businesses have since learned (often at great cost) that spending money to improve the understanding and planning for a service or application generally works out cheaper than fixing a poorly designed implementation once it has started to fail. The same lesson applies to maximizing the use of data.

Organizing a date with data

The majority of enterprises remain committed to effectively developing a data-rich future. This is partly predicated on the wide-scale adoption of new technologies such as edge computing and machine learning (ML). The combination of new data and enhanced analytical insights delivered by these technologies have the power to transform businesses. One of many examples is ML-driven automation, which can free staff from routine tasks, enabling them to focus on more productive uses of their time.

A further emerging technology set for pervasive adoption is internet of things (IoT) connectivity. Connected devices are already becoming a driver of the data transition for a range of different types of enterprise. As a result, many sectors are gaining valuable customer data by integrating the data from their connected devices into the overall customer experience. For example, the data gained in this way can then be used to help ensure that businesses deliver the best service and experience for each customer's rapidly changing and evolving needs. 

With the expanding data boom and the adoption of the latest generation of digital tools and services, businesses are now well-positioned to optimize their processes and take the customer experience to a new level.

But there’s a clear need to be careful when taking on these tools and services. As with all tech implementations, their adoption needs to be scalable, secure and effective. And they also need to be relevant. In the rush to digitize, unwary enterprises risk rolling out tools that aren’t appropriate for their business needs, incurring avoidable upfront costs together with ongoing maintenance charges. To compound potential issues, inadequate security provision can also undermine a digital transformation, adding cost and damaging bottom-line performance.

While many tech companies have enhanced their commercial offerings to help their customers cope with these rapid developments, there’s no substitute for detailed, long-term planning to get the best from what’s on offer. And that planning needs to start now as organizations with effective data, cloud and digitalization roadmaps will gain a significant head start on their competitors. They will also be best placed to take advantage of the post-Covid-19 growth as the economy starts to recover.

Before embarking on the next step in their digitalization journey, companies of all sizes must plan and implement the right operational resilience data foundations to help ensure the best possible outcomes for their time and investment. In a period of increased competition and growing post-pandemic opportunities, making poor tech investment decisions not only adds avoidable costs now, they’re also potentially damaging in the long term. Those businesses that plan their data use to preserve business continuity, enhance operational efficiency and increase their competitive advantage, will emerge as clear leaders in the new commercial landscape.

Mark Woods, Chief Technical Adviser for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Splunk

Mark Woods is Chief Technical Adviser for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Splunk. He helps executive teams and international policy makers understand the seismic effect that data-driven approaches can achieve and get the right blend of enabling technology, expertise, empowering guidance and practical governance to deliver beneficial change.