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by Contributing Editor at Corinium Global Intelligence

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Why data is at the heart of digital transformation

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Data has become so important to a business’s success that it can be the trigger for transformation.


Digital transformation is a huge cultural change programme within an organisation that involves adjustments to people, processes and technologies. The benefits of such a transformation include increasing efficiency, improving customer experience and creating new revenue streams – but most importantly of all, if business leaders don’t lead a transformation project, they could be jeopardising their own business’s future.


It’s no surprise, then, that research from IT analyst firm Gartner found that two thirds (66 per cent) of leaders want to digitally transform their organisations.

For many, one of the key drivers for change is the ability to make better use of data. After all, it can help to justify internal change programmes, improve customer experience and enhance decision-making.


As John Tang PhD, chief data scientist at Barclays, says: “Look around you first: the beauty of data and analytics is that it’s applicable pretty much everywhere, whether you are trying to forecast P&L in a finance function, automating processing in an operational role, leveraging analytics for talent retention as a HR professional, data-driven customer intelligence as a sales person, or AI-led art as a creative – the applications are far-reaching.”


Tim Lum, head of data and insights at Virgin Atlantic, says his team are working on a number of augmented-intelligence applications that support its revenue management teams. “From pricing to inventory management, we’re building tools to vastly increase the amount of data utilised during the process of filling a plane to the right load factor and yield,” he says. “Our data science team utilise deep-analysis and predictive analytics to write algorithms which crunch millions of data points and produce recommendations that aid bulk decision making and help fine-tune the intricate balance between filling up a plane too quickly with low-yielding seats and pricing too high and not selling enough seats.”


Data has become so important for many businesses that they’re hiring chief data officers (CDOs), many of whom sit on the boards of companies, while some of the largest firms even have separate data hubs, dedicated to making the most out of the data at their disposal.


“While my team work on multiple transformative data science projects, my focus has been on establishing a new data science function that will transform the business,” Ben Dias, head of data science at Royal Mail explains.


And often, data is an integral part of a wider change programme.


“There has never been as big or [as] exciting [a] transformation as what we are going through now and data is at the heart of it,” says Barry Penayi, chief data officer at Lloyd’s Bank.


Data, much like other components of digital transformation, does not just require changes to people and culture – there has to be investment made in new digital technologies that can help businesses to collect, store and analyse data, and then act upon that insight. Older technologies are clunky, and often do not integrate well with other systems and applications, or are slow and can’t keep up with your customers’ need for information in real time.


Investments that can be made include cloud computing services, which can help businesses to scale-up and down their storage requirements depending on how much data is being collected, while various types of analytics tools can help businesses to make sense of the data they’ve collected. For example, a popular café that uses real-time data analytics tools can find out which of its meal deals are the highest selling, and stock more of those meals.


By using new tools data professionals can work on providing insight into more challenging questions.


“We’re increasing the level of self-serve business intelligence and analytics. If I can increase the level of safe self-service then I can get my team of data professionals to work on harder problems,” explains Graeme McDermott, CDO of Addison Lee Group.


The likes of AI and machine learning will help data teams further. But first, organisations must begin their digital transformation journeys and put data at the heart of their change initiatives.


This article features quotes from The Top 50 Innovators in Data & Analytics 2019 – United Kingdom report. Read the full report here.

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