What we can learn from the leaders in digitalization

Covid-19 has accelerated a lot of trends, not least within digitalization and data analytics, which means that a lot of companies and organizations need to go through a digital transformation journey in the next couple of years. Transformation isn’t easy, sometimes even painful, the questions are many and the road ahead is often long and crocked.

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”
Satya Nadella, VD Microsoft


Kairos Future has, on behalf of Bisnode, interviewed leaders from European companies that have already undergone a digital transformation, and who is now in a position where they apply a more data-driven strategy than many of their competitions in their respective markets.

They tell us that the journey towards a data-driven organization is unique to each company. Therefore, companies are designing and testing the models they believe are best suited for their specific situation, often shifting from one model to another during the journey. ​

Important lessons from the report:
Starting a journey towards becoming data-driven is like venturing on a journey across an open sea. The leaders in the report highlight several different steps that have helped them on their journey towards data driven.

Start at the top:
Many data initiatives are driven by external forces. It’s about long-term survival, about keeping up with competition and higher customer expectations. In the long-term, data will impact all aspects of the business which makes it a central strategic question. That is nothing that can be delegated too far. And experiences are, that nothing will happen if not top management is not only onboard, but also driving transformation

Start with the aim:
Before you start collecting and structuring data and spending all your resources on expensive collection, cleaning and storage; make sure that you have defined a clear purpose and goal. Ask yourself the question; what is it that we really want to achieve?

To gain control, you need to let go of control
Dataland is in many ways still virgin territory and having full control is therefore impossible. This needs to be accepted and thus giving up control is necessary, whether that’s outdated ideas, old metrics or old working models. Start trusting the data, have confidence in that the people presenting data-based insights and proposals have done their homework, that they have the right data and treated the data correctly. Trust others in the organization to work on your data and create value from it. Trust customers and partners so much that you dare to share your data with them.​

Ethics and regulation – make sure to get it right from the start
When starting the journey, technology seems to be the big thing and finding the right solutions for data collection and data management is often top of mind. Data ethics is however equally important. Before you start processing your data, make sure you have principles in place that can protect the company from violations, potential incidents and from imposing on the integrity of individuals. Remember – more data, more ethics! 

Data-driven is not just for data scientists 
Data-driven is about culture, and it is important to engage experts from across the organization. For specific projects you need to mix people with business skills and domain expertise with data scientists and make them work together to get results. ​ Finding the right people, with the right competence, that understand both data and business will be a key issue moving forward. 

Change mechanisms:
The study finds that every journey is unique and that the methods vary a lot across businesses. We identified change mechanisms across three focus areas – competence, culture and organization.

Within the first-mentioned area, competence, there are examples of companies that utilized data evangelists, built youth committees, recruited researchers and doctoral students and who through partnership found the competence needed to push them forward.

Culture is about the importance of showing progress, working with change management and how to build commitment and transparency in the organization through cross-organizational and cross-functional teams.

In the last area, organization, the leaders testify about how the creation of centers of excellence, the development centralized scaling- and data organizations, and how the establishment of transformation units with mandates were necessary during their transformation journey. 

Consequences of Covid-19
For some of the leading companies in the study, the pandemic has confirmed that they are on the right track with their digital and data strategy, that the decision to invest and start this journey early was the right decision. At the same time, many leaders see how the demand for high quality, real-time data is increasing due to the pandemic. Even though these companies have come a long way in their digital journeys, for some companies, the pandemic have been an eye opener for those in their organization not used to working with data and analytics. The corona crises have hit several industries more severely. For some companies that means that the room for investments in data analytics and tools, at least temporarily, is set on hold, as focus has shifted more towards sales driven activities.




Figure: Covid-19 consequences in four categories

The journey towards data driven is crocked and filled with challenges and hard decisions. Although each company's journey is unique, all the interviewed leaders believe that it will ultimately be worth the investment.

If you want to read more, the report "Data-driven masterclass" is available in its entirety for download here or on Bisnode's website.

Want to know more about how you can continuously work with AI solutions and data analysis within your organization? Contact Mats Lindgren, CEO and founder of Kairos Future.

By Karl Johan Tegnér