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We all know by now that the Internet of Things will enable digital transformation of markets and usher in the Age of the Customer. Life before connectivity (BC) will be different than life after digital (AD) for humanity and companies alike, these are the transition years. As technology leaders, our boss and the board expects us to lead the company from the BC world into the AD promise land! True digital transformation has a natural complexity associated with it that very few fully comprehend. Established organizations are encumbered by legacy habits and organizational silos that impede the progress towards being digitally nimble. Changing people’s perceptions is a leadership conundrum; adding a rapidly-changing technology landscape to the mix adds to that challenge. You are not alone: building the right digital thread to the customer is the major challenge for many enterprises as they attempt to harness the power of data emanating from the Internet of Things (IoT). Companies are grappling with both technology and businesses changes simultaneously and lack the maturity to deliver transformation programs. Here are a couple of ideas to help you with your journey and set the stage for success AD. Take some time to explore these elements with the multiple stakeholders involved with your digital transformation program.
1. Know thy customer – Take the time to understand what they value most and how the landscape of customers will change with the market’s transformation.
2. Cling to the thread – Trace the digital thread from the identified customer value to the data element that is required to enable that value.
3. Jump in the lake – Consider a true single source of information (data lakes, ponds and puddles) and less silo application databases and application level integrations.
A common understanding and alignment around these three basic areas can unite people and jump-start your progress towards transformational change. Let’s explore these areas more deeply.
"If data is the new oil, then it’s time to pump it out of the application shale of the past and into the refinery of the future based on Hadoop and other open technologies"
Know thy customer – Who really is the customer in the new age AD? Is it the internal operations manager that will reap the benefits of AD business productivity, your existing customer base, or entirely new entities that will use data and insights to provide new or improved experiences to the marketplace? Let’s start with the fact that a “digital customer” means something very different AD than in the legacy BC world. The opportunity space has broadened significantly. Today’s marketplace includes the existing base of current “customers” plus a whole host of additional prospects. For example, when data becomes available, the marketplace will be teeming with new opportunities: customers of customers, competitors, data aggregators, legal system consumers, and maybe even society itself! Markets AD will rally around valued service solutions and less around the companies that focus on technology. That’s a hard concept to internalize when the BC world revolved around the best product technology! Knowing what customers value, and being able to communicate it across segregated silos internally is a critical step in focusing the technology providers around new and exciting digital service opportunities.
Cling to the Thread – “Data-gathering activities need to be connected to a valued outcome” Tracing the thread from the value proposition back to the data element is a critical analysis required to be successful in AD markets and is a system architect’s dream! Look for people that get really excited about the prospect of building a digital thread and recruit them for your transformation team. If you’re an early career person, jump in and get your hands dirty: it will establish a future career foundation. Sewing together the required business and technology elements is the fun part of the digital transformation work! The figure shows the elements that have to be knitted together to form the bridge to value. The part I found most interesting was appreciating how many different groups, functions, technology options, and individual skills sets have to come together to be successful in the AD services world. Digital transformation pulls together business and technology functions like I have never experienced before, so it’s important to visualize your thread and clearly communicate how you will be delivering value!
Go jump in the lake – Many organizations will attack IoT data with legacy thinking and concepts based on silos of existing experience. A solid data strategy and flexible IT architecture will be central to successfully unlocking the value of data. Enterprise organizations still struggle with the implementation of master data strategies because old habits die hard no matter how detrimental they are to the future. Data silos driven by the one-to-one relationships that exist between legacy applications and their databases must give way to secular data. If data is the new oil, then it’s time to pump it out of the application shale of the past and into the refinery of the future based on Hadoop and other open technologies. Application databases will not go away tomorrow, but I believe the associated master data problems caused by legacy lock-in is in need of strategic scrutiny when preparing for the AD world. The concept of a single filtered data repository goes a long way towards mitigation of the risks associated with application silos, proprietary schemas, and application integration headaches. The data lake concept is a powerful one, so explore the opportunity and the open stack of tools that are available to combine sources, filter information, and cultivate the important data sets for the life AD enterprise.
Establishing a digital transformation program and all its associated pieces is an exciting and daunting responsibility. Taking the time to understand the customer, thread together the pieces required to deliver value, and establishing a data strategy goes a long way towards delivering your current BC enterprise into the AD world of tomorrow! For people that love technology and applying it to solve complex business problems this is an exciting time and a true opportunity of a lifetime that will change the world for years to come!