How we work is rapidly and irrevocably changing in response to global crises and market fluctuations, which has also shone a bright light on the need for businesses to digitally transform; sooner, rather than later.
While there are many key factors to consider on a journey to digital success, it is those businesses who place a key focus on data first, and build a digital strategy around key data elements, that will likely see the most success as says the PBT Group.
“While many businesses have a digital strategy in place, especially within early adopter sectors such as the financial services sector, for example, we find that there is still a lack of understanding of what this strategy should entail comprehensively. A key ingredient to success in this regard is the support of high-quality data,” says Yolanda Smit, Practice Director of Innovation at PBT Group.
To achieve digital status, often companies too easily employ the likes of a Chief Digital Officer and jump into rolling out aspects like chat bots and other new engagement tools, but with little thought given to the customer experience and how data must support such initiatives in order for them to prove to be successful.
A successful digital strategy requires a digital culture that leads to the establishment of an educated workforce who knows what is possible and is developing solutions around that. South African corporates must move beyond seeing digital as a box ticking exercise and implement it in more practical ways throughout the organisation, to get the most out of their data and digital journey.
“Whether it is financial services or any other industry sector, it comes down to understanding the use case of digital first and how data can be leveraged to enable it. Decision-makers might certainly understand the theoretical elements required, but they need to bridge the gap towards practical implementation,” Smit continues.
This becomes even more problematic when looking at companies that operate outside of what may be dubbed as information services lead businesses and who do not necessarily have a grasp on aspects such as data literacy, digital ethics, privacy, and so on. Education therefore forms an essential component of their digital journey.
Human resources can greatly influence this by introducing basic digital and data literacy programmes for new employees and more advanced up-skilling opportunities for current ones. However, executives must also be exposed to what digital can do for the business if they are to formulate a strategy that is feasible to use inside the business.
“Leadership becomes the critical success factor in building a long-term vision for the digital culture within the company. But it does not have to be an immediate overhaul of existing processes. Organisations can start small, experiment small, and fail forward. Establishing a digital culture must be a practical approach,” says Smit. “And understanding the concept of data fabric and how it fits into the creation of a digital culture can greatly expedite such a transition.”
Gartner refers to data fabric as a custom-made design that provides reusable data services via a combination of data integration approaches in an orchestrated fashion.
“In more practical business terms, this is about creating a single data management environment that consists of the enterprise-wide infrastructure to help companies manage their data more effectively in real-time. Data fabric therefore takes data management – a critical component of the digital strategy – to the next level by viewing it as a more overarching concept that integrates elements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning for better data intelligence,” says Willem Conradie, Chief Technology Officer at PBT Group.
Everybody understands that data drives competitive advantage. Those companies able to do so efficiently will build value. Consequently, an agile approach is necessary to enable employees to become more adaptable to evolving market requirements. Data fabric brings this fluidity to data management.
Adds Conradie; “Of course, management must acknowledge that changes in the market have resulted in the spectrum of data management exploding. The resultant newer capabilities provide intriguing opportunities to react to clients in real-time. This requires the enterprise data approach to solve the complexity of the data at hand and integrate that into a digital transformation strategy. It therefore cannot be siloed according to business units but must talk to the organisation in its entirety.”
The data fabric can augment the capabilities of existing systems and processes to greatly assist the business in becoming more data driven. For example, by introducing things such as robotic process automation, employees can turn their focus to more strategic functions while repetitive, administration-intensive tasks are automated.
“The nature of data and how it is incorporated into a business’s digital transformation strategy will determine the success of that strategy and how much benefit a business can derive from the data it has. The reality is that as data continues to grow, the data landscape will be built around a more integrated digital culture that looks to leverage data fabric to unlock additional growth opportunities. A digital strategy that keeps this in mind will not only succeed now, but well into the future,” Conradie concludes.
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