Data silos & digital transformation

As we and others have written before, people are at the heart of a successful digital transformation. Having the right champion in the C-Suite and then winning with the various teams to get their buy-in is crucial. Yet one area that often doesn’t get a lot of attention is data silos within an organisation. Even a small to mid-size business from a few hundred to a few thousand will have data silos.
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Data is the oil
Whether it’s a focus on customer systems or the supply chain, data is the oil that will make all the parts work. Without data, it’s hard to make good decisions. And it is more than likely that one or several of the new technologies that will be deployed in a transformation will be data oriented – CRM, sales automation or marketing automation tools, finance, product databases.
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As analytics will lay over top of a lot of the technologies being put in place, bringing in various data sets is what makes it all work better. If any form of Machine Learning (artificial intelligence) tool is to be used, varieties of data are key to making such services work.
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Understand your data silos
For decades, it is the data that a department in an organisation holds that has been used for power leverage. Sharing was reluctant. In many cases too, the type of database used by one department was different from that in another; think finance versus supply chain. Bringing them together was expensive and time consuming. This is less the case today, but sometimes challenges do remain.
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Just as you look to the people who will guide the digital transformation, so you need to understand your technology debt and…your data silos. That means understanding how complex it may or may not be to get them to connect or dump into a new database system as well as who the people are that control that data. And getting them to share.
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The importance of breaking down data silos can’t be stressed enough. Doing it now will help you later as well if you undertake new projects. As more and more AI tools and services enter the business world, having interconnected and shared data will make them work better and deliver a faster ROI. Investing in this approach now can save big later.

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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