Lean In to Differentiate with Data

If we’ve accepted that the future of business is digital, then the future of digital business is data-driven. Here’s how the most advanced companies are turning data into business results.

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I’ve found there to be wisdom in William Gibson’s line “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

The challenge is parsing “signal from noise” in order to find present-day patterns that are truly predictive of what’s to come.

Four years ago—in large-scale survey data I’d collected at the time—I saw a strong association between organizational commitment to using new technology (including cloud) to differentiate and better business results. I felt so much conviction that cloud adoption was urgent and necessary that I titled my call to action to CIOs “Get on the cloud bus, or get in the clown car.”

Today I have equal conviction about a call to action to use new technology to differentiate with data and AI.

Over 1,400 executives and technical practitioners we surveyed this year confirmed that cloud adoption and a digital agenda have become ubiquitous. Ninety percent of companies are using cloud infrastructure; 95% are at some stage of digital transformation.

Firms at an “advanced” or “highly advanced” stage of transformation outnumber those just getting started nearly 10 to one. They show us a glimpse of nearly every company’s future.

Companies in an advanced stage of digital transformation—at which respondents also give the firm high marks for “leaning into innovation”—are three and a half times more likely than others to have in place both a data strategy and the role of chief data officer. Those who have done so are four times more likely to have made the most progress toward highly scalable data, highly portable data, and an AI-ready infrastructure.

Making these organizational commitments to accelerate progress toward the enabling conditions of competing as a data-driven enterprise is within the control of every executive team.

There’s another action you can take right now, based on the signal in this data.

I’ve repeatedly observed Apache’s Cassandra, Spark, Kafka, and Elasticsearch, deployed in concert, to power the reactive, message-driven apps that define today’s state-of-the-art user experiences.

The “top 10%” of companies with the most scalable, portable data, AI-ready infrastructure are six times more likely to have deployed this full set of technologies than their counterparts in the bottom 10%.

This is your future stack if you are “in it to win it” as a data-driven enterprise. This is where the nexus of technology adoption and business results again strikes me as a reason for urgency.

This same 10% are three times more likely to be increasing digital investments in response to the coronavirus crisis; in fact, nearly half (47%) are doing so.

I believe in the potential for accelerated innovation to help the world’s economy return to growth, and in a way that is more productive and humane. Today’s data-driven leaders have given us further reason to be optimistic. Any organization can follow their proven path to raise the odds that they too will have a strategy and the tools to fuel recovery—for the firm itself and its ecosystem.

Read about the need to continuously improve the customer experience through data here.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.