How UAE’s resilient economy thrives amid global challenges. Explore five essential considerations for embracing a data-led approach, from breaking down data silos to harnessing cloud capabilities, AI strategies, and empowering talent.
In business, insights are everything. They are the angled mirrors that help decision-makers see round corners. And in insights, data is everything. It is the light that bounces off the mirrors.
The UAE has a stronger economic position than most of its MENA peers. It rebounded from the pandemic more quickly than many nations worldwide, and its inflation rate throughout 2022, while higher than it had been for some time, was still lower than many countries in Europe and the Americas. But the economy is inarguably global. And businesses here are once again looking to do more with less and unlock the kind of long-term business value that can help them weather another crisis should one arise.
“Unlock long-term business value and weather the next crisis.” It is easy to say; it is easy to write down. But challenges stand between us and the kind of insights that give us a glimpse of what lies beyond the horizon. Here are five considerations that will enhance any journey towards becoming a data-led organisation.
Data silos remain a sticky problem, as does internal opposition to their demolition. But suppose companies want to futureproof themselves against, say, supply-chain disruptions. In that case, they must lean into the wind and get it done — eliminate silos and unify the data infrastructure.
Data is easy to gather, but if it is to be transformed into actionable insights, a cogent strategy must be formulated and nurtured. In place of silos, we should see tighter integration of platforms and as few vendors as practicable. We should see unified governance that reaches every corner of the business. When we see these things, the value will follow. Increased productivity flows from centralised, accurate, non-duplicated data that represents a single source of truth.
The first step in accomplishing all this is widely known. Cloud migration brings the right infrastructure for scaling up data leverage. Business stakeholders can incorporate processes and workflows into the new environment and define goals, policies, and challenges within a coherent data framework. Access for employees is also improved, which is critical for a workforce working from anywhere at any time. Cloud environments make it easier to provide security at scale — another vital component in a region beset by ransomware and other threats.
Analyse this… and that
When moving to the cloud, one advantage that is immediately felt is that of cost reduction. Hardware and model expenses are reduced, and this is true for businesses of all scales. Everywhere we look, we see this democratisation of AI, so every business must now operate under the assumption that it is only a matter of time before their competitors adopt AI and ML. This calls for an AI strategy — one that encompasses daily use and is underpinned by governance that ensures that data gathering, data storage, model building, model maintenance, and more are consistently compliant and continually adding value.
A data-driven company should be one in which people are empowered, not replaced. Models built around leveraging trends, alleviating stress points, and replacing outdated processes only work because they empower the employee. We live in the age of employee experience. Employers are now the ones in the shop window. If you adopt an automate-first strategy, how much good talent will you be able to attract if they are unsure when their role may become automated?
If — as any shrewd business leader should — you accept that enterprises are still only as good as their people, then those people must necessarily be at the heart of every technology decision. A secure and reassured workforce will serve customers better, innovate more freely, and stay longer. What this means for data initiatives is that you must pick the right use cases, having identified who does what, when and how.
Look out the window
If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that the most powerful insights occur when looking outside the confines of the business. There are entire networks of data and intelligence available across various industries. Properly integrated into the enterprise’s data environment, they can help with supply-chain visibility and other trend-watching use cases. They can boost efficiency and time to market. For example, imagine the value to a car manufacturer of a data feed of hundreds of millions of part purchases and repair events. Consider the efficiency gains of analysing this data from across the industry, not just inside the individual business.
Walk softly and focus
Jumping in with both feet on any large-scale change project is a recipe for disappointment. Be “data-informed”. Ask questions. Find out what is available and what use it may have. It is all well and good to have millions of records on hand, but if they do not help accomplish a specific business goal, then what is the point? Be “data-driven”. Determine ways of using what you have to generate useful insights and make better decisions.
But to reap the greatest benefits, be “data-led”. Establish a constant feedback loop that enables real-time, even automated, decisions through intelligence embedded in processes and workflows. This is where every company should aim to be.
The end of the road?
Supply chains, economic disturbances, social hurdles. The challenges never stop, so neither can the data evolution of a competitive business. Data insights in a data-led organisation will come from many quarters. But if the right strategy is in place, no corner will seem too troublesome and no horizon too daunting.