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Harnessing The Power Of Big Data

October 2021
Alexandra Lekkou
Anastasia Louka Ph.D.
Elena Barla
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Data-driven organizations are more likely to succeed. What’s the secret?

Ninety percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past few years, making it a major force of change of our times. Data is transforming the way we understand the world and the way we make decisions in both our daily lives and the business landscape in a fundamental way.

McKinsey found that data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times more profitable. Big data is a game-changer for organizations and a new corporate asset.

Everything we do produces data that can be used to create information and insights, which in turn can be utilized to create value. Everywhere we look, we see examples of how this happens, from online companies that test consumers reactions to alternative web pages that increase engagement and sales to retail stores that track variations in traffic, customer interactions, and purchase patterns to establish how different space designs and offerings impact productivity and sales. Manufacturers that capture and analyse incoming equipment use data to improve their products, and agencies that analyze consumer data on social media use it to inform marketing campaigns.

When readily available and accessible data is utilized in alignment with an organization’s strategic priorities, it delivers a significant positive impact. This is vital for all kinds of organizations. For example, big corporations have a wealth of customer data that can be harnessed to personalize their experience and drive retention and revenue generation. Startups, at the other end of the spectrum, equally need data to respond in an agile way to market changes, understand how customers relate to their product, and even pivot to other services. Such decisions cannot be based on experience or intuition to be successful but rather on science and evidence.

But are organizations making the most of this data-driven approach across their operations? There are areas where this approach lags behind, and one of the most crucial is people: how organizations relate to talent, grow leaders, and manage culture in the digitally transforming world.

The Need For Data

It is clear that across sectors fostering the right talent, leadership, and culture is high on top management agendas given the proven impact they have on business results. Yet it is also clear that organizations are not making the most of insights in designing interventions for these critical topics. When looking at how an organization drives change through choosing or developing high-potential employees, assigning leaders to new roles, or shaping the mindset and practices that support its strategy, change decisions are often based on existing practices and past assumptions rather that information and facts. 

Let’s take the example of digital transformation, a great undertaking for any organization, with two key drivers: technology and people. In our experience, and the experience of our global partners, more often than not these transformation journeys fail to produce the expected results. The main barrier is people’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, competences, and ways of working, access to data, and insights – not systems or tools. 

How can this risk be mitigated through the use of data? On two fundamental levels. First and foremost, we can establish the readiness of an organization for the transformation of the business by exploring current enablers and barriers to it as well as change levers and potential risks. We can then use this input to inform our transformation journey and significantly increase its potential for successful outcomes.

Today, specialized tools that assess people’s digital competences on an individual level – as well as tools that look into their personal preferences and behavioral patterns in relation to the competences that support an agile, digital way of working – give us a wealth of vital information. Using such tools, we can get a full picture of the soft and hard skills across the organization, identify readiness levels, differences across functions or other demographics, and plan the transformation journey accordingly. On this basis, we can drive engagement through appropriate communication interventions and enable upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

In parallel, we can use robust and data-driven tools to measure, on a collective level, the embedded practices and shared mindset. This means that today we are able to visualize and measure organizational culture and understand how it will hinder or support a transformation effort. These are vital insights for predicting the actual adoption of new digital ways of working. On this basis, we can determine and drive changes with a much broader scope in order to support “going digital.”

The Danger Of Not Reading The Data

Think of an organization where significant groups of people are missing basic digital skills or prefer to rely on the tried and tested, where employees are primarily recognized for striving for perfection or are expected to focus on procedures first, where information is not openly shared or people are expected to agree with their superiors. 

All of these are qualities that put great risks on the digital journey and must be addressed if it is to succeed. Today, we can do much more that have an intuition about them; we can measure them, assess their potential impact, and design interventions to address them. We are able to turn intuition into data and practical knowledge to drive our decisions and our actions and thus multiply the chances of successful outcomes for any change effort – be it digital transformation or new strategic goals, a merger/acquisition or international expansion, or a strengthened customer focus or employee experience. 

About the Authors:

Alexandra Lekkou is a Director for Stanton Chase Athens, where she leads leadership and organizational culture services.

Elena Barla is a Director at the Stanton Chase Athens office, where she leads the Digital Acceleration & Sustainable Innovation Unit.

Anastasia Louka is a Principal Consultant for the Athens office of Stanton Chase, where she leads People Data Transformation and Analytics Services.

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