I noted in several recent blogs that the COVID-19 crisis increased the need for digital transformation because the crisis brings new value-creation opportunities to businesses, and I explained how to capture those business advantages even in a recession. It necessitates implementing the right infrastructure – not just cloud and automation, but also a robust data management capability. Unfortunately, many companies accelerate digital transformation without a robust data management structure. Warning: Lacking this ability for data mastery, they essentially play Russian roulette with their business going forward.
Accelerated digital transformation and data mastery
Before the COVID-19 crisis, companies reached the stage where they tested and knew they could trust the digital technologies and techniques. But many delayed their digital journey because the necessary change management and organizational change was a constraint.
Even when companies recognize the need for robust data management, it is still difficult to establish because it is hard to:
· Make the necessary investments in technology for data management
· Find and maintain talent to build and drive data management
· Choose to invest in data management rather than chasing improved customer experience and cost reduction.
A few companies recognized the need for robust data management in the past, but most companies overlooked how serious the need was. Except for chief data officers, companies acknowledged it almost as something theoretical rather than a practical reality. It usually did not bite a company until there was a major security/privacy data breach or serious failure of the digital platform enabling a vital part of the business.
The real extent of the need did not become clear until recently as companies have undertaken significant digital transformation. The need for consistent, high-quality, disciplined data management becomes critical as their dependence on digital platforms, automated systems and artificial intelligence (AI) reaches a mature state.
The pandemic crisis accelerated companies’ dependence on their automated systems, and companies look to increase their investments in digital automation as they seek to quickly embrace operating models that are leaner, more agile, and more resilient. However, in their zeal to complete these digital journeys, it is easy to overlook the heavy lifting required by a disciplined data management program.
The fear all senior management teams should have is that, in the race to quickly automate and complete the digital transformation journey, the post-COVID-19 reality of fiscally austere conditions will cause their organizations to skimp or ignore the unglamorous yet vital data management systems and disciplines.
In the cases where this happens, those companies could face disastrous consequences, ranging from disruption of vital processes to high-profile breaches of privacy and/or security. Of one thing we can be sure: Without mastery of the data, the automated systems and their digital platforms will fail.
However, the consequences of these failures are hard to predict. Some will be small and manageable; others could be severe. Effectively, companies without data discipline and strong data management will play Russian roulette. Every day they will spin the revolver chamber, put the gun to their proverbial head and pull the trigger. Eventually, a live round will go off.
Despite the often frustratingly obscure nature of the problem and the need for expensive investments without clear paybacks, the need to take data management seriously and adequately provision it with talented teams backed with the necessary investments is paramount.
Without strong data management, that clicking executives hear as they go to sleep at night is the next pull of the trigger in an ongoing game of Russian roulette.