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Thinking about how to adopt AI? First check your organisation is truly data-driven

Back in January when the year was just starting, I called on you to join the ‘Anti-Trends Movement’. We’re now almost midway through the year and one topic that appears to be topping every publication and conference agenda is AI. So how do you stay part of the anti-trend community and still understand the significance of tech like this?

You can start by seeking out content that cuts through the noise, allowing you to focus on those foundations that will make a real difference to your business. Foundations such as being truly data-driven.

By that I don’t just mean recording stats, monitoring sales data and having a decent CRM (although these things are essential). A data driven organisation structures its entire operating model around the collection, analysis and application of data, derived from multiple, connected sources. In a data-driven organisation, ideas are encouraged from cognitively diverse teams, then tested and validated, with resulting changes implemented rapidly.

If this doesn’t sound like your organisation’s status quo, this is a good starting point. Put in place the following elements and data-driven success will follow. And how does this impact AI adoption? You can’t deploy AI tools if your data strategy isn’t firmly in play.

A holistic view of your data strategy

Your data strategy should underpin your overall business strategy – but it’s more than defining your data sources, deciding what tech to use and what roles to recruit. Before you invest in technology and talent, take a holistic view of your data – think about how it’s currently used and how it needs to develop to align with your future goals.

This will enable you to:

  • Consolidate disparate projects into a coherent data programme - reducing cost and preventing dilution of focus.

  • Focus on where your investment will deliver the biggest customer benefit and/or commercial return – i.e. putting the greatest effort behind the greatest possible return.

  • Define the questions you want to ask of the data, as well as what you’ll do differently because of the outputs.

It’s critical that data solutions are strategically architected, with a clear understanding of both the input data and output objectives. Data solutions that are siloed based on business need carry the risk of delivering capability without purpose, or spawning disparate projects which use data inconsistently, creating confusion rather than clarity.

The 5Vs: Transform’s data quality framework

Advanced analytics and machine learning begin with clean data and a clear structure. It may sound basic but get this part wrong and you may as well forget the rest. At Transform, we apply our ‘5Vs’ data assessment framework to all Data Discovery projects, to assess current data quality as well as the way it’s being utilised, creating a comprehensive ‘as-is’ baseline.

Our 5Vs are the key areas that indicate overall data quality:

Veracity - the extent to which the data can be trusted as a source of truth. This can be impeded by aggregation, duplication or latency in the data.

Variety - an important enabler to creating a more personalised customer experience.

Velocity - the way data flows through the organisation via different systems. It also looks at the refresh frequency of datasets and the limitations of these from a donor experience and reporting perspective.

Volume - the amount of data currently held and how it’s stored in key systems.

Value - arguably the most important element of the 5Vs – Data Value links data assessment to strategy and allows us to prioritise the data requirements in line with achieving the data strategy.

The ‘should we’ question - moving beyond compliance

It’s never too early to start thinking about data governance and how it relates to ethics. Effective governance will make sure that the context and limitations of your data are understood, and that data is managed and maintained according to best practice and legislative requirements. So far, so straightforward.

However, with growth and success, your focus will shift from compliance to more complex questions of ethics. Put simply - just because you can use data to pursue opportunity, it doesn’t always mean you should. We see this becoming a huge (and thorny) topic for legislators, big companies and their users, with important implications:

  • We predict a continued shift from passive agreement to active consent – with the latest cookie legislation illustrating this ongoing trajectory.

  • Organisations will evolve their thinking from compliance to engagement – moving beyond what the law requires into a dialogue of mutual benefit with customers.

So, ask yourself - where do your business opportunities intersect (or clash) with your values? And how do you plan to manage that?

How healthy is your eco-system?

Does your tech stack deliver on your customer experience goals? Does it provide access to a consolidated customer dataset? Can it deliver personalised, predictive actions and communications at scale across all channels?

Data eco-systems rely on the coming together of technology, data and user. Done right, your platforms should be interchangeable, scalable and able to adapt to changing business priorities. They should also be connected and multi-source to give the best chance of unlocking the eureka moments that occur when different data sets intersect.

In the context of your own data eco-system, consider:

  • Alignments and dependencies within your digital tech stack and wider architecture.

  • How well operational data flows in and out of the system to ensure quality is maintained.

  • The strength of your data security and its ability to shield your organisation from external threats and internal misuse.

Creating a culture of curiosity

Data-driven organisations are characterised by curiosity and access. By embedding a culture of curiosity, your teams will feel empowered to ask questions of your data, growing beyond the limitations of their remit and proactively improving organisational performance.

Capability is also key. Data-driven organisations require a high level of data literacy in order to realise the benefits of their ongoing investment.

So, it’s essential to provide your teams with the tools, training and access to data sources they need. Then give your full and unfettered permission to use them to as broadly as possible by fostering a culture that values curiosity, embraces different perspectives, encourages difficult questions and challenges prevailing assumptions.

Here’s the good news – you’ll almost certainly have many of the fundamentals of a data-driven culture already in place. How well-integrated, mobilised and activated they are, will vary. But happily, creating a culture of curiosity is like pushing at an open door, with people and organisations thriving as a result of the empowerment, opportunity and permission that being data-driven provides.

Lay your data foundations

The journey to being truly data-driven isn’t quick or easy, and there may well be bumps in the road. The first step is to optimise and derive value from the systems and data you already have, before embarking on any further investment.

At the heart of our advice is the need to think holistically, which can be difficult for organisations to do. However, it is possible (and easier) to plan holistically and deliver incrementally by using agile principles such as proof of concept, MVP and iteration to lay your data foundations before you invest in shiny new systems or data science rockstars.

At Transform, we can help you to extract maximum value from your existing data, systems and martech platforms, improving customer experiences and driving KPIs, whilst developing platforms that are aligned with your future goals.

In short, we can help you lay the foundations for data success. And guess what? If you’re then being asked how AI can be deployed in your organisation, you’ll be one step closer to doing it successfully with your data house in order. Get in touch to start a conversation and watch out for more thoughts on AI and how you can make sure you’re ready for it.


Are you ready for AI?

Building the right foundations to unlock potential

At our next leadership breakfast, we’ll be hosting a panel discussion to look beyond the hype and uncertainty surrounding AI and exploring how it can help leaders and businesses to optimise, grow and unlock value.

The convergence of rapidly developing technologies like AI and blockchain is sparking a revolution, reshaping core business processes and keeping us in a continual state of transformation. At the same time, we’re all drowning in a cycle of hype and it’s hard to see a way through.

It’s causing leaders to ask questions like:

  • How do we unpack AI and what does it mean for our business?

  • What’s needed to remain competitive and take advantage of new opportunities the technology unlocks?

  • Our CEO or Board want us to start doing AI but where do we start? How afraid should we be?

Our experience of working with organisations to tackle issues like these means we’re well placed to share the secret sauce behind leveraging your data to create opportunity, and embrace new technology in a way that amplifies value and advantage. Because the one thing you can’t afford to do with AI right now is ignore it.

Leading the panel will be our Director of Solutions, Hugh Simpson, who’ll share his experience of transforming global operations for organisations using AI and advanced data.

Our panel of experts will showcase real-world examples from their organisations including how they’re already harnessing scale, data, skills, and channel power to thrive in this new era.

  • Hugh Simpson, Director of Solutions at Transform

  • Ange Johnson de Wet, Head of Engineering at NatWest

  • Premal Desai, Head of Data & AI at The Gym Group

  • Richard Moore, Enterprise Analytics Leader at Anglian Water

In an open and transparent discussion (held under Chatham House rules) we’ll unpack how to align your business and data strategy, view your business as a platform, leverage new technology to create cognitive workflows and build humanity into your data and AI.

If you’d like to be part of this transformational conversation, held at BFI Southbank, email Spaces are limited but we'll do our best to find a space for you!

What: Are you ready for AI?

When: 5th July 2023

Where: BFI, Southbank, London

Time: 08:45-10:45 (Panel discussion runs from 09:15-10:15)

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