The promise of data in the digital era we live in

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Dinesh Conrad Alexius Sattrukalsinghe 

The value of data 

Data has been the fundamental building block upon which information, knowledge and wisdom has been modelled, however with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution the value and importance placed upon data that resides within corporate entities and organisations in somewhat scattered silos and most often than not harvested for positive business gains in support of their forward growth trajectories, is gaining momentum and focus and forms a “tacit leave way” to stay ahead in the league.      

Organisations that embraced the very many technology waves have spearheaded initiatives embracing best of breed technologies in terms of their adoption to mobile, smart accessories and social media constructs. However notably the data that is churned through these devices are not dwelt upon and examined to identify patterns that would aid in understanding customer behaviours, interactions or transacting patterns, etc., which would provide worthy leads to identify cross selling potential in the context of enlarging upon the portfolio foot print by alternative product positioning thereby gaining in on a greater share of their purses. 

This is further fuelled by the age old paradigm, that it is a more costly exercise to acquire a new customer than retain an existing customer however most often than not corporate marketing initiatives tend to ignore the former and place great emphasis on the latter exerting greater pains and costs, also ignoring the successful conversion ratios and longevity of the new client acquisition and allied nurturing and maturing costs that come together with it in their drive and aspiration in search of quick-wins.

Thus it requires organisations and functional units to steer clear of their current operatives that take a large amount of their time in mundane routine operations and rather abstract it to a level above starting off with identifying the key measures and metrics  that help latch customers on and more over keep them returning. Focusing on these measures on an ongoing basis and examining their interplay over a period of time also dwelling on past data that they have with them, will aid organisational and client serving functional units to get a better understanding and a sense of intuition for further exploitation, which would result in business growth attributing to prosperity from within their existing portfolios which undoubtedly could be significant and a less costly exercise. 

In addition it would further reaffirm the bonding, trust and relationship across the existing custodian client base resulting in a greater sense of loyalty, higher levels of client delight and above all brand ambassadors from within their existing portfolio/client fold in support of fuelling a ‘PWoM’ (Positive Word of Mouth), an indirect no-cost championing channel for organisations to dwell on.            

The digital drive

Thus taking into consideration the fore mentioned and the value of the data that most organisations “sit pretty upon”, it is a very timely imperative that a digital vision is created for organisations, spearheaded and sponsored right at the helm, which would aid in the creation of a digital culture that would foster seamless collaboration resulting in a high composure of digital agility over time across all quarters.  

Following in on the traditional model of leaving it to an existing functional line to drive the required change, may not pay dividends given a) that the data is pervasive and would reside across the entirety of the corporate – spanning across a wide array of functional entities and b) functional boundaries and silo-thinking within may not derive the true benefits of this initiative. Thus the installation of a “driver” for this change is of utmost importance. 

A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) designate should be installed to ensure greater focus on this initiative reporting in onto the CEO provides the required empowerment, cutting across all organisational boundaries thus being able to gain adequate support to dissect all the silo-data scattered around. Thus the candidature fitting the bill of CDO should be versatile and wield the required acumen and exposure spanning diverse terrains thus being able to interact seamlessly by having a good understanding of the “lingo” of the vast multitude of functional units scattered around which will aid in the cause of getting under their skin as it were and building trusted relationships.  Thus the need of the hour is for forward-thinking HR Leaders who will don a business savvy composure and act as a business partner and enabler to aid in fuelling the changes that the business units within the organisations are yearning for in this digital era, giving priority to the lines of business needs. Thus would follow onto institute new modes of talent acquisition, nurturing and grooming (e-learning based) to shorten ramp up cycles, assignment of digital objectives and measures and even rethinking of the stereotype annual appraisals and replacing them with year round performance based meritocracy schemes and promotional avenues that would prevent stagnation given the dynamism and agility of the business thus ensuring that the “fast trackers” have a way forward and not lose out on these “stars” due to organisational structures cast in stone.

The digital era calls for agile and adaptable handling, which will aid in providing a suitable status quo to aid in the digital transformation within.   

Innovations at the edge 

To aid in the operationalisation, representatives across all salient functional units and stakeholder groups could be amassed who would constitute a digital council. Membership of the digital council could be extended to the external quarters as well by solicitation of client champions (CCs) to make this exercise more holistic and market oriented, especially where inadequate probes exist at present.  

In addition fostering a culture towards Innovation and encouraging “ideation” and such innovative practices at the “edge” or periphery will result in reinforcing and harnessing better support towards the digital culture to be instilled across the entire organisation, resulting in an observant and upbeat tempo across board and the breeding and grooming of digital talent from within. HR too would have a pivotal enabling role to play here in the context of appropriate ratio/mix provisioning of seniors “rankers” and “Millennials,” the new generation who has exposure to disruptive technologies of the digital era. It would follow on to institute digital challenges,  digital evaluations, digital incentives and rewards schemes et al as well which will keep them ticking and upbeat in contrast to address the digital thrusts mooted across.        

Innovations at the edge need be vetted and brought to the organisational foray through the structures created from within reviewed, vetted and endorsed by the digital council, driven by the champion of change – the CDO designate. Also budgets to bring the edge innovations into light or realise them as working solutions  in the lines of business, could be allocated as a few per centile (1% to 2%) of anticipated savings as a result of these innovative or automated approaches or even incremental revenues or accrued profits thereby creating a planar within to encourage digital transformations. These edge innovations could even result in an alternative line of business to be set up down the line based on the generic needs they satisfy once productised, which will an alternative revenue stream that corporates could gain in on.       

It is very timely that organisations embrace this digital wave, which will enable them to stay relevant to their custodian customer base, else who will be seeking switching options across the competitive planar offering such digital enablement facilities, which would provide for greater convenience, relevance, interaction, easy to use mobility options et al.  

In addition it would also be a definite eye-opener, and enable the custodian CMOs, head of lines of business interacting with clients to identify customers additional or new requirements on a proactive stance due to the power of data, analytics and the intuitive insights it does provide thus aiding them in their pursuits to gain in on more of the customers mind share and wallet share as a result.    


In this digital era every single digital interaction – a mouse click, swipe, transaction, like, comment, browsing of a web link, search et al. produces a unique virtual identifier that conveys customers inner most thinking, preference, sentiments, aspirations et al. and being able to proactively identify, qualify and satisfy this via digital tools will result in suitable product, service positioning and provisioning contrary to the traditional stereotype approaches, which will yield greater returns and provide a guaranteed and sustaining value proposition to any organisation. Thus leaders should be mindful and ensure that their organisations gear themselves for the digital era by staying abreast with their customer’s needs/wants and ahead of the market/competitive planar, reminiscing on the wise words of wisdom of former GE Chairman Jack Welch: “When the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.”

(The writer, B.Sc.(Hons), MBA, CEng, FBCS, CITP,  MHRP, PGMN, is a Management Consultant with over two decades of corporate management experience spanning diverse terrains in information and communication technology, engineering, marketing, brand/product management, human capital/talent management, knowledge management, innovation management and general operations management spanning a wide spectrum of MNCs, blue chips and allied conglomerates in the private sector and also semi-governmental setting and would greatly appreciate views, comments and feedback being emailed to