Entrepreneurship

Leveraging Data: The Most Valuable Global Resource

By Dharmender Kapoor, CEO & MD, Birlasoft

Over the course of human history, wars have erupted over the mastery of resources – land, people, gold, and in more recent times, oil and even water. However, there is one global resource that does not require us to fight over it. Instead, through deep collaboration and continued technological innovation, we can peacefully leverage it in the service of humankind. I am referring to that ubiquitous bounty that has grabbed worldwide attention in recent years – DATA.

With almost 50% of the 7.8 billion global population transitioning to smartphones as of 2020 and a significant portion of the remainder being connected to a digital ecosystem in some form, worldwide data streams have emerged as manna from the heavens for businesses today. Not only can they look towards a better understanding and resolution of customer demands, the inherent risks of business – often the bane of many a successful idea – have been minimized as a result. As we continue our journey with data, I am sure that the future will only get brighter.

Unleashing the True Power of Data: A 2021 Perspective

Data can tell us interesting stories. It can make us more productive when leveraged wisely, drive innovation, and deliver individualized experiences that help ensure the ‘Wow’ factor to a customer’s journey. In other words, data is poised to be the engine of change in this second decade of the 21st  century. 

However, the sheer volume of data generated can prove to be a drawback. Today, we are acutely aware of the pitfalls of over-analysis or going after the wrong data set, challenges that can set us back instead of driving us forward. So wherein lies the solution?

To phrase it in a simpler language, Data Data Everywhere, but not an insight that makes me blink!’ Simply put, we need to put context to our data streams and analyze it within an effective framework. This can then be processed into information for building knowledge and creating actionable insights (wisdom). Such a transition [Figure 1] would be vital in determining the organization’s continued success in a data-driven world.

Figure 1: Data leading to Actionable Wisdom: From Symbols to Insights

While underscoring the essentially straight-line nature of the transition, this pathway would require a multi-fold, yet cost-effective commitment, starting with a clear definition of the goals in sight. This would then need to be supported by a constant yet dynamic focus on effective planning for driving the data collection and analysis process and realizing the need to democratize the data streams by overcoming legacy siloes. Adopting a robust security framework and developing a broad-based data-oriented mindset would further strengthen the transformation journey. A change control process consistent across the organization would be an added bonus here by recognizing the importance of a feedback loop that can capture and highlight all relevant experiences during the transition.

The Indian Scenario

With the growing global integration of Indian businesses and the rising demand for digitalization of several key business functions, data is increasingly in focus. As technologies like AI/ML take center stage, data platform modernization is no longer a mere item on the business wish list but rather a survival imperative.

In this context, the need for data privacy and security has become critical given its widespread use by social media and app-based service providers. While the West has already shown the way through laws and regulations including HIPAA, CCPA, and GDPR, such a framework is yet to be adopted in India. Prompt and stringent legislative action towards addressing the issues faced by people when they share their data and regulating the ever-widening market for private data could therefore prove to be a gamechanger in this scenario by redefining the terms of engagement.

Again, while privacy concerns continue to exist, the focus of the Indian authorities towards building an integrated data-driven ecosystem is enabling companies to build new digital solutions and applications as a significant part of their offerings. A fine example of this transformation would be the rapid expansion of small-ticket lending operations by both emerging and established fintech companies through new-age AI/ML-enabled solutions. Organizations, therefore, need to realize that early adoption of a data-centric approach will only result in a more significant market share as their platform would be synchronized with the individual choices of the end customers.

Navigating the Future: Going Beyond Digital Transformation   

As the world grows from ERPs to Digital, organizations are growing from being process-driven to insight-driven.

Digital transformation is not merely a transition to new technology infrastructure. We feel that it requires a deep-seated cultural shift and must become a part of the organizational DNA. While several approaches have been identified for driving this process, experience shows that it is most effective when there is visible empowerment of the lowest levels of the firm. Therefore, data and data-driven capabilities democratization is a key driver in this bottom-up approach to a successful digital transformation.

In this context, companies must focus on treating their data as a true strategic asset to become a key enabler across business functions and is useful in critical decision-making at all levels. This is especially true in the post-normal world that we find ourselves in today, where data-driven decisions have emerged as perhaps the most powerful tool for businesses to thrive and prosper amidst worldwide uncertainties.

In conclusion, organizations today need to realize that the true power of data is directly correlated to their strategy and people. It must cut across existing business siloes and drive connections to help derive the right information at the right time. Embarking on this journey as an organization that is truly democratic and empowers its lowest levels would then lead to unprecedented and extremely desirable results at the same time.

After all, wars have been fought over lesser goals!

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