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Why Data, Not Technology, Is Your "Killer App"

By  Charles Clark  on  20 Jul 2012
  • Data Strategy

Investment in technology continues to grow unabated, with Gartner forecasting that worldwide IT spending will hit $3.6 trillion in 2012, a 3% increase on 2011. But are businesses putting their millions in the wrong place?

Organizations are facing rising technology implementation bills and maintenance costs associated with legacy and new IT systems to try and piece together a full picture of their business activities –and it’s giving budget holders huge headaches.

These pains are unnecessary because it’s not technology that should be used as a means to an end for business leaders. Instead, they should focus on data and how best to leverage it as a corporate asset.

Data is the fuel that runs businesses. It brings substantially more value than just technology on its own. Businesses must learn how to exploit data to drive innovation and growth.

The “technology versus data” conundrum for me is the same as F1 racing.

All cars being equal, it is the driver’s knowledge and skill that wins the race thanks in large part to the car’s dashboard feeding the driver with information to make informed decisions. Data SHOULD be seen as the differentiator in a business. The imperative is knowing how to use data. In doing so, significant business value is created by knowledge workers.

But, most businesses don’t know how to harness the power of data effectively. Given the vastly increasing quantities of data that are overwhelming enterprises, it’s no longer an option to stand idly by and let data go underutilized.

In fact, we’re about to launch a new and exciting maturity model that helps organizations understand the potential of data and how to get there. This is often easier said than done, especially when you consider how many business leaders have traditional views of how value is defined and measured: data doesn’t quite fit into their plans because they are focused on technology as the saviour.

From my years of experience working with organizations, I’ve found that many perceive value primarily in terms of return-on-investment (ROI). “How long will it take for me to get this investment back?” is a common question asked by buyers of technology.

This is something of a misnomer when businesses are looking at the value of data – data analysis itself provides significant value, but is not easily quantified in terms of direct fiscal value if information is not being used and measured by organizations. Employees can calculate the cost of a poor decision – but it’s difficult to determine the opportunity cost.

Closer to home, and working with our clients, it’s become clear that high performance organizations are those that value data – and know how to use it to their advantage

Arguably, most organizations have been misled by industry analysts who have been hired to promote vendor solutions and expensive technologies. They have missed out on more agile solutions that can help them harness their data – giving knowledge workers the insight and tools to reach the chequered flag ahead of competition.

While technology has its place in organizations, it is data that should be used as the key to unlock your performance potential.

Key Takeaways

Here are few tips when assessing whether your organization is truly exploiting the value of its data – and not just relying on technology:

  • Be Critical – How are you using data at the moment? Is it informing business decisions, and if so, which ones? How much value are you getting from what you’re analyzing at the moment? What is the most important area for you to improve on? This should be one you focus on first.
  • Don’t Stand Still – Successful businesses are ones that never stand still, and the same reasoning should be applied to data. Always look at the different ways you can use data to develop flexible strategies for your growth: do you want to move into another market? Use intelligence to gauge risks and opportunities.
  • Collaborate and Listen – The whole business should be using data to inform decisions – it’s essential to not work in silos, and share information wherever you can. The finance department may have a key piece of intelligence for the data that procurement is using at the moment – without the right systems in place, there’s no easy way for data and insight to be collaboratively shared among colleagues.