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Data as an Asset Blog

What Does Learning Have To Do With Data Culture?


Today, there is an overdose of technological options to put data to better use, but not enough enterprises are set up with the right culture to put data to best use.

I recently happened to read an interview based article in the McKinsey Quarterly, titled – “Why Data Culture Matters”.

The article highlighted seven principles that underpin a healthy data culture. Let’s look at them.

    • The Takeaway – Don’t approach data analysis as a cool “science experiment” or an exercise of amassing data for data’s sake. The fundamental objective in collecting, analysing and deploying data is to make better decisions
    • The Takeaway – Commitment from the CEO and the board is essential. But that commitment must be manifested by more than occasional high-level pronouncements; there must be an ongoing, informed conversation with top decision makers and those who lead data initiatives throughout the organization.
    • The Takeaway – Get data in from of people and they get excited. But building cool experiments or imposing tools top down doesn’t cut it. To create a competitive advantage, stimulate demand for data from the grass roots.
    • The Takeaway – An effective data culture puts risk at its core – a “yin and yang” of your value proposition. Although companies must identify there “red lines” and honour them, risk management should operate as a smart accelerator, by introducing analytics into key processes and interactions in a responsible manner.
    • The Takeaway – The board and the CEO raise the data clarion, and the people on the front lines take up the call. But to really ensure buy-in, someone’s got to lead the charge. That requires people who can bridge both worlds – data science and on-the-ground operations. And usually, the most effective change agents are not digital natives.
    • The Takeaway – There’s increasing buzz about a coming shift to ecosystems, with the assumption that far greater value will be delivered to customers by assembling a breath of the best data and analytics assets available in the market rather than creating everything in-house. Yet data leaders are building cultures that see data as the “crown jewel” asset and data analytics is treated as both proprietary and a source of competitive advantage in a more interconnected world.
    • The Takeaway – The competition for data talent is unrelenting. But there’s another element at play: integrating the right talent for your data culture. That calls for striking the appropriate balance for your institution between injecting new employees and transforming existing ones. Take a broader view in sourcing and a sharper look at the skills your data team requires.

Based on my most recent assignments, which include Swiss Banks, Insurance companies, Mobile operators and Global retailers, I am absolutely convinced that the rise or fall of an organisation is dependent on each and every decision made on a day to day basis. No decision is trivial, especially considering the changes happening in our world. And more importantly, “people” are expected to make decisions. And if people are unable to make decisions in-spite of available data and related technologies, there is a serious “cancer” in the organisations.

The good news is that this is curable, if addressed on time in the right manner. And the medicine is “learning”.

The best investment that leaders and individuals can make in this age is in –  learning to adapt to this changing world.

All our technological advancement are only worthwhile if we put them to good use for the people in our world.

To this end, the best we can do is to keep – learning.

Italy Bridge Collapse: This Digital Age Competency Would Have Avoided It

On the 14th of August, 2018, a 200 metre portion of the A10 motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa, Northern Italy. 43 people were reported dead and more that 15 people ended upon a hospital in a critical condition, while more than 600 were evacuated.

The most scary part for me, was that my family loves travelling around Italy and we had almost finalised our plans to be in Genoa around that time. Thankfully, we did not make that trip at the time of the bridge collapse.

We had previously travelled these roads numerous times from Zürich, Switzerland and had always observed, that the state of maintenance of the infrastructure components such as bridges and tunnels, paled in comparison to those in Switzerland. I always wondered how the Swiss managed to keep their infrastructure tidy, bright and clean.

“Okay – we are not Swiss…” or, “… it only happens in Switzerland…” and similar comments are usually common. Regardless, of the country this is discussed in.

…is good discipline in infrastructure maintenance, only reserved for a few?

But, is good discipline in infrastructure maintenance, only reserved for a few? Should we not let technology, perhaps lead the way in filling for our habitual or even cultural lacuna?

Artificial Intelligence and Robots are certain to help us in this regard. I know for sure, because my sons says so. One is in middle school and one in is high school they know and even demonstrate to me how technology can fill the gap, where human weaknesses exists.

In the digital age, data and people must co-exist in harmony.

But, before this can happen, we need to understand two critical components of this eco-system. One is data and the other is the involved person(s).

The ability to act on data is not only a critical skill for individual but also for a team and even an entire organisation, in the digital age. In fact, it is more of a responsibility for a safer world. In a previous article in Scientific American, I discuss how big data can be of use in managing America’s ageing infrastructure. There is no doubt about the use of data and related technologies in creating better infrastructure systems.

The involved persons on the other hand, need to develop a competency, I term as “datapreneurship”. It enhances the ability of an individual to act on data in both a team as well as an enterprise setting, because it also instills communication and influence as well as process discipline along with a skills around knowing the economic usage of data.

Lack of digital age competency could be a crime

Any thing short of have this digital age competency is turning out to be a crime of gross negligence.

If the Italian authorities had their engineers with the datapreneurship competency, we would not have seen this disaster as they would have acted on data, communicated and influenced the right action, enforced the needed process discipline and also ensured the use of data and related technologies, serves as an insurance for better outcomes.

Three Reasons For Cal Fire to Invest in The Datapreneur

In August 2018, CAL FIRE announced the award of $170 million to Reduce Fire Threat and Improve Forest Health.

The funds aim to prevent catastrophic wildfires, like the Carr Fire and Mendicino Complex. More importantly, it is to RESTORE FOREST HEALTH! And, there is a very urgent need for this.

Reportedly, more than 100 agencies and organisations across California will receive funding to help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and sequester carbon.

Local organisations like fire safe councils will be enabled to implement activities that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential to communities and forests. Hazard fuel reduction, fire planning, and fire prevention education with an emphasis on improving public health and safety, all the while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are a part of the funded activities.

However, where should the officials and the leaders start with their improvements and indeed their deployment efforts?


Where do you find the low hanging fruits? What are the moonshots to aim for?


These are that tough questions leaders need to answer before they set course on their journey.

Fortunately, California happens to be the home to Silicon Valley, where numerous world changing companies have taken shape. There is no shortage of talent. Interestingly, there is no shortage of technology either.

Data, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, are perhaps the best tools available to the agencies involved in saving California.

However, the most important actors are involved people in the process of saving California. And if these people are “upgraded” to become datapreneurs, California is best insured through them.

Datapreneurs are competent well trained individuals who know how to put data and technology to best use in order to get the desired result.

A safer state. A safer country. A safer and a healthier planet earth.

Any organisation, that intends to insure it’s investment in data, robotics and AI – must invest in their “dataprenuers”. Because, they will know exactly how to put these three tools available to mankind in the digital age, to best use. Anything less, is a compromise and we may have to pay a price to this. A huge price, needless to say.

People first. Technology next.

Let’s pursue a safer planet in the digital age.

Enterprise Moonshot Challenges: Here’s Two Things To Begin With

Google apparently defined a “moonshot” as a project or a proposal that:

1. Addresses a huge problem
2. Proposes a radical solution
3. Uses breakthrough technology

It’s similar to those BHAGs many of us would be familiar with.

If you are a leader who is responsible for pulling off your enterprise “moonshot” challenge, where do you start? 

What can you rely on?

How do you keep your teams and investors enthused and motivated, knowing that the journey is not going to be easy?

There’s no argument about emerging technologies bringing in tremendous opportunities, for enterprises. In fact, accelerating progress in AI and automation is creating opportunities for business, the economy, and society. 

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s research, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to create value across sectors. Interestingly, the impact of AI could be the highest for the Retail sector, in billions of dollar terms. However, the share of AI impact in total impact derived from analytics is between 40 to 50 percent.

That is to say, data and analytics capabilities of an enterprise has a direct bearing on its ability to unlock AI’s true and full potential.

This is both encouraging as well as discouraging, depending on the kind of leader you are.

Encouraging, if you are a creating outcomes, even with “half-chances”. And discouraging, if you are waiting for outcomes to be “handed over to you in a silver platter” by a technology or a vendor from outside.

Assuming that you are the former, who starts from “within”, taking full accountability of the outcomes to be created, there are two things you will need to start with.

Starting today, here and now!

The first is you, and your people. Your enterprise data is next.

Having witnessed, the digital transformation programs worth billions of dollars in investment, I cannot emphasis enough the criticality of your existing people. Your people – make or break your digital transformation journey – period!

They make it easy or difficult. They make the high value returns or they sink the costs into the large ocean of failed pursuits.

Data on the other hand, is something which you can no longer ignore. Time and again, enterprises lack a clear strategy that suits them. It’s one thing for a big five firm to give you a strategy and it is quite another for your enterprise to create your own data strategy, that’s right for you. 

What matters most is “what’s in your home”. And this includes your people and your data.

Start with these two and I promise that you won’t go wrong with your digital transformation endeavour.

The Billion Dollar Byte, will help you think this through.

What Every CFO Must Invest In First, For the Success of Finance Technology in 2020

In a previous post, we discussed a data architecture construct for the Finance Technology Success in 2020. It is the Class-N ODS for digital age success.

But, where should the investment begin? If you are a CFO, or for that matter any responsible leader intent on driving digital transformation successfully, where would you begin?

Would you start with new technology, new people, both or something else?

The real question is this.

Would you create certainty or uncertainty?

Let’s look at a real life example.

A global furniture brand headquartered in Europe, had invested around $350 million on a cloud infrastructure solution. The total digitalisation investment was planned for around $1.5 billion. Needless to say, the senior management teams were terribly nervous about the their ability to demonstrate the return on that investment quantum of investment. A chief digital officer was engaged too.

To begin with, the global enterprise did not have a data strategy for their digital transformation journey. Added to this, the global giant was saddled with a legacy application landscape that was compounded by an equally “rigid” legacy culture. If the technical debt was one headache to the Chief Information Officer, an underprepared or an un-prepared workforce was a matter of worry to every senior leader in the organisation.

A necessary and an urgent digital transformation effort was being driven by a very complex-multi-vendor arrangement.

Accountability as well as leadership was either limited or non-existent. While there was a very strong heritage of this founder influenced organisation, digital transformation seemed to be something, which the organisation was not prepared for at all. Chaos seemed to be an acceptable normal.

The good news though, was that there was a very strong culture and value system in the organisation. With this strong culture came a “will” to succeed under the most trying circumstance, regardless of the complexity of the undertaking.

But, the question is – would “will”alone be sufficient if the “skill” levels are low, especially, if the undertaking is as critical as a digital transformation endeavour? A complex undertaking that needs a whole new competency, one which we have not needed before.

In my book, The Billion Dollar Byte, I term this competency as “datapreneurship”. In fact, I am even including this in a International Human Resource Management program at the ZHAW in Switzerland, only because the combination of data and people is the most potent force available to any enterprise in the digital age.

CEB Global, a subsidiary of Gartner Inc, in its white paper titled, “Finance Technology 2020 – New Approaches to Solving the Four Biggest Challenges to Finance Technology Success in 2020”. Identifies four challenges for the success of finance in 2020. They are:

  1. Distributed Technology
  2. The End of Traditional Hierarchies
  3. Total Data Reliance
  4. Tech Skill Premium

Invest in your people first, and they will find you the tools. The other way around could prove expensive…

Before even considering a dollar to invest in glossy tools and technologies, every organisation, must invest in its own people. Investing in the “rolce royce” of technology is certainly less fruitful than investing in your own people. When competent people make decisions, the right technology will follow anyway. But, usually not the other way round.