Leon A Gatys

You might guess that the large picture above is Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night,” but in fact you would be wrong. It was composed by an AI system using data from the Louvre Museum.

While such a creation underscores the power of technology, many companies are still grappling with how best to harness it. In this series of blogs, Sid Ray explains the burgeoning role of data and the strategies to capitalize on it.

A force for change

In my daily work, I see how data is revolutionizing almost every aspect of business life.

Improvements in processing power, algorithm maturation and network speeds have helped unleash a new era of data-readiness. In the last few years, many organizations have seized upon the insights this offers and have started to transform themselves into technology-savvy, data-driven enterprises.

The opportunities this offers are exponential, with far greater reliability and more functionalities than manual or supervised processes. This is also disrupting value chains, forcing companies to rethink nearly everything they do. The result is often new business models that seek to maximize profit from this new paradigm.

Data has not only paved the way for massive preventive and descriptive initiatives but is also being leveraged to achieve prescriptive and predictive capabilities for such things as disease diagnosis and fraud detection. These represent the new jet fuel for digital transformational impact. In the coming decade, they will transform industries including manufacturing, retail, transportation, finance, healthcare, law and many others.

Sid Ray, Director of Market Advocacy Group (MAG), believes data offers us exponential opportunities in business.

Data explosion

So far, data use has fallen into two broad categories: description and prediction. Going deeper, we can define the maturity levels of data preparedness around us, and the direction in which it is heading. These form the basis of Assisted Intelligence, Augmented Intelligence, Autonomous intelligence and AI as Non-visual User Interaction.

Based on the industry, service or device we can roughly categorize them into four buckets. GPS in our cars or phones, for example, can be put into the Assisted Intelligence category. HoloLens and the now shelved Google glass fall under the category of Augmented Intelligence. Driverless cars fall under Autonomous Intelligence and finally, Alexa, Siri and the like fall under the final frontier of AI, albeit at an early stage of development.

What they all have in common is that their success ultimately hinges on the quality of data used, a quintessential and non-negotiable ingredient.

At the start of my education in technology, questions about how to achieve clean datasets would start with a set of business rules. The smart ones in the class would impress the professor by talking about mining value chains and domain knowledge.

Today, however, with vast leaps in data proliferation, traditional business models are being reshaped in ways we never imagined. It is this shift that makes it crucial for all businesses to live and breathe data.

Dimensional capabilities have also seen major improvements. Gone are the days of structured and curated data. We are sitting on the cusp of an explosion, both structured and unstructured. Thanks to data innovations, as you read this, nuclear reactors are being rendered safe, cyber security is countering fraud and traders on Wall Street are executing trades.

Future-proofing

The real challenge in 2019, is how to make your data strategy future proof. So far we have developed a fairly good understanding, but the heavy lifting of democratizing and embracing data as part of the culture is ongoing – and something we need to develop more frameworks and strategies for.

In the 1990s, Amazon was just another a website selling products, competing against other web retailers. Fast forward to now, and effective use of data has helped Amazon to reign supreme while many other retailers are in crisis mode. In the same way, other industries are ripe for disruption, with the power of information set to separate the winners and losers in every category.

Businesses must set realistic expectations of what they can achieve, while also building a culture that puts leveraging data at the core of everything they do. Equally important is remaining data hungry and feeding business lines with good data. Finally, to ensure a smooth journey along this transformation, they must be prepared for change management.

As Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Embracing the data journey will require courage and in my next blog, I will consider effective strategies that can help, and how to implement them. Stay tuned!

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