More about Shifting Culture, Less about Investing in Potential

Data Science is often brought to companies as a potential game changer. An investment that may pay off if the company's data can be leveraged to provide insight and gain a competitive edge. But bringing analytical offerings to organizations as a "maybe solution" to their pain points misses the mark. Data science is today's answer to our most pressing enterprise and socially innovative challenges given the data-driven nature of our markets and society as a whole. If an investment in data science does not pay off for an organization it is rarely a symptom of the offering, but rather a symptom of an organization's lack of data culture required to make 'competing by the numbers' a reality.

Culture gets to the heart of available data, legacy infrastructure, red-tape prerequisites for approvals, company vision, and the willingness to adopt proposed solutions. All the potential in the world will not deliver value if the organizational culture is not aligned with feeding data-driven solutions directly into the company's value proposition; the promise made that what gets delivered will be granted and experienced by the customer.

Whether they know it or not, most organizations are rapidly moving into the big data market where their technically savvy consumers are using commoditized solutions to find value. This means that the consumer in B2C is becoming less reliant on businesses, and that the receiving business in B2B is using cheap, self-service solutions that do not require outside organizations.

Remaining competitive means finding a way to still offer value to individuals and businesses in a world becoming more self-driven and technology savvy. Amazon is not competitive because of the great books and other items it offers. It is competitive because it uses data in a way that brings value to the online consumer experience. It takes advantage of today's current consumer habits and massive transaction data to deliver value to its customers.

To still offer value to savvy clients and be competitive in today's market companies need to leverage data intelligently using approaches that compliment their domain expertise.

Data science compliments domain expertise and values; it does not compliment outdated technology or a myopic and irrelevant culture.

The ultimate bottleneck to any data science solution will be the culture shift required to make competing analytically a real way forward. This shift involves reevaluating what information is currently collected, how it is disseminated and used, how it compliments employee training and organizational standards, and most importantly how it lives inside products and services directly impacting the organization's value proposition. Each of the above should be inline with using data science effectively and each piece is ultimately dependent on the company culture being willing and ready to move forward.

To shift the culture in this direction requires a healthy dose of self-awareness on the part of the organization, and the ability of today's best data scientists to educate CXOs on how to make this shift. It involves identifying the individuals, processes, and antiquated belief systems that are toxic to the alignment discussed above. It involves eliminating outdated business 'intelligence' approaches, targeting processes that have more gloss than substance, replacing yesterday's technology with relevant stacks, building out proof-of-concepts for products that use machine learning as their workhorse, and defining a culture that iterates on these steps in an ongoing value-producing fashion.

The question is not about whether or not to use data science; we are living in the world of big data and those unable to adopt these approaches will be rapidly left behind as numerous studies show. The question is which companies can be taught to shift their people, processes and vision to be aligned with driving data science into their value proposition so that it is relevant and competitive. This is the first and most important task to seeing data science successfully deployed and used in an organization. Shift the culture, and the unparalleled advantages to utilizing data science will naturally follow.

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Tags: business, culture, data, science


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Comment by John Doe on March 5, 2015 at 11:21am


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