I posted a question on LinkedIn to find out how many companies have already implemented a data strategy. Only one person said yes.
My interpretation of the results to this question is that we seem to consider digitalization as a kind of natural process: because it takes place in companies every day in any case, what do we need a strategy for?
In practice, digitalization in companies is carried out by HR, marketing and IT operations, and the accumulated data is dispersed across the organization.
Do we understand that these daily activities generate the new currency of the platform economy? Are we able to take advantage of it? Also, how can we get access to the new business ideas which are brought about by a data-based platform economy?
How can we get access to the new business ideas which are brought about by a data-based platform economy?"
I contend that we don’t understand, and can’t get access—which is why we need to raise data strategies right into the center of the debate.
We should understand that digital data may not be a kind of ‘new oil’ after all, but a renewable resource which can be scaled endlessly by the organization in order to utilize it the right way.
With this ever-renewable resource, the technological focus of business turns into bits, which turn into data, which turns into new cash flows.
It’s the management of this ‘circular economy’ which requires strategy and strategic leadership.
Companies need to decide how to take full advantage of technologies. We need to find out how the data can be extracted and processed further—and decide what kind of resources this requires from the company. It’s necessary to think about the utilization of data from a strategic perspective.
This could mean, for example, raising data architectures and knowledge to a level which the technologies themselves already allow. The way in which the different systems talk to each other is one thing, of course, but would it be possible to commence the dialogue this time with the people who build these architectures and systems? A society geared for engineering knows how to optimize the data required on a paper machine, but digitalization requires us to promote similar measures in the direction of our customers.
Managing people as well as creating and implementing a data strategy are tasks that belong to a company’s management. They can’t be outsourced. The Rockefellers of the digital era are those who understand this and know how to take advantage of the data—the most important renewable resource of our time.
Jenniliisa Särkkä-Blomberg is Aalto EE's Associate Director of Open Enrollment Programs and Networks and responsible for digitality-related programs. The Analytiikka ja datastrategiat (Analytics and Data Strategies) program provides a comprehensive and strategic perspective of modern analytics and its uses.