Process, People and… DATA!
To date, Adrian Wake of 28Connect has provided two key ingredients of digital transformation, the leadership success factors and a structured framework to guide you through. In his penultimate episode, Adrian focuses on a third ingredient, the importance of data, the fuel that powers everything digital.
Adrian also delivers the second of two Business Quick Guides created for this series.
Whether you see them as hype or a reality your business can leverage, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are all fuelled by data. IoT connects multiple devices to capture new sources of data. ML self-learns by continuously taking historical and 'live' data to understand and respond to the environment in which it's deployed. RPA takes analysed data to automatically make decisions and act, previously done by humans. Go to the less exciting end of the spectrum and a process management system captures and moves data around pre-orchestrated workflows.
But wait. Strip away all the acronyms and ask yourself, haven't we always been trying to do these things? My answer to this question is, yes! Data has always been used to highlight problems, provide insights to take advantage of and automate decision making. It was in the 1800s when Lord Kelvin, the Irish mathematician and physicist, was attributed with a quote which became abbreviated to, "what gets measured, gets managed". (He also played a major role in the development of the absolute temperature scale, measured in kelvins.) So, what's different? Data needs to be captured, managed, analysed and visualised and it's in these four areas where developments in technology are allowing business and society use data to greater effect, with greater efficiency through greater accessibility.
I first learnt about the power of data two decades ago working at a plumbing and heating fittings manufacturer in the UK. Taking their 28mm elbow product where we started with a 20% plus defect rate, below are various stages of the improvement cycle with a comparison of how we used data and technology then versus what we could do today.
Our need for data and approach to problem solving remain the same today as back then, we simply have better, cheaper and easier access to tools to capture, manage, analyse and visualise the data. Our ability to take advantage of these tools rely on two things. One, our understanding of the technology available to us and why, how and when you might apply it. Two, the quality of data. The organisational attention given to these two items forms a big part of your Digital & Process Culture, described in Part 2 of this series as a success factor in the Leaders Checklist. Is the business (not just IT) knowledgeable in new and emerging technologies? How disciplined is the business in defining and following processes? The generation and capture of good data is underpinned by robust processes.
The diagram below, The Data & Technology Maturity Loop, illustrates the increasing use of data (levels 1-4) and the increasing sophistication of the digital technology available to us (the outer circles). This diagram is part of the second of two Business Quick Guides for you to download.
The technologies are not constrained only to the levels shown and progression doesn’t need to be strictly sequential, it’s intended to be indicative of likely challenges. For example, you will struggle to achieve anything meaningful using advanced analytics at level 2 or 3 if a key input is historical data which is of poor quality due to poor processes back at level 1. As they say, "garbage in, garbage out".
Considering the maturity cycle, and thinking about your vision and purpose, here are your list items for this week:
As you work through the 5-Steps to Plan You Digital Future, consider what initiatives are required to improve the robustness of your process and people activities to generate and capture better data. These are likely to be a mix of technology and non-technology initiatives.
In next week’s final episode of this blog series, we’ll bring it all together to get you started, if you’ve not already.