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Enter the ‘data company’: when data becomes a business

Not only do data insights enable businesses to navigate today’s dynamic business environment with agility, flexibility and consistency – they are now essential to remaining competitive. Companies that fail to put their data to good use risk not just falling behind, but falling out of the race. With these odds, why are so many companies struggling to derive benefits from their data – and what do they need to succeed?

When an enterprise successfully places data at the core of its activities – from strategy, operations and finance to sales & marketing and even HR – we don’t refer to it as merely a ‘data-driven company’. Once an organization makes that transformative, cross-boundary leap into the data age, the only way forward is up.

Transcending ‘data-driven’

"At Cegeka, we use the term ‘data companies’ to describe such organizations. This is because every action they take hinges on information they have gathered about their systems, people, products, services, customers and markets. The data they collect is successfully harmonized, accessible and usable to power efficiency-driving tools, to automate tasks and processes, to train and use intelligent algorithms, to forecast demand – and the list continues. In fact, these enterprises are their data – and some of them even sell it to other players as a service."

With data insights at the core, you’re making truly informed decisions and saving a huge amount of time through automation and operational excellence. Increasing your customer intimacy, making smarter products, improving operations and augmenting your employees – these are all inextricably linked by data.Jan Kesters, Sales Manager at Cegeka

"Data insights and exchange are central to growth in the digital age," asserts Cegeka Sales Manager Jan Kesters. "When you let data speak and listen to what it says, you will be able to move from reactive to predictive maintenance, enabling your company to maintain a loyal customer base, empowering you to continuously improve your products and services, and ensuring that you know exactly what your employees want and need to thrive. With data as the most valuable asset, they are empowered to make truly informed decisions and save a huge amount of time through automation and operational excellence. Increased customer intimacy, making smarter products, improving operations and augmenting your employees – these are all inextricably linked by data."

What is your business cooking up in its data kitchen?

While this ideal situation is truly inspiring, it’s still relatively uncommon in the business world. Although companies are generating exponentially more data than they did just five years ago, many of them are not aware which portions of their data are useful, or even how to access it effectively.

According to Kristel Demotte, global VP of Data Solutions at Cegeka, only three in ten Belgian companies today successfully gain a competitive advantage or work more efficiently through data.

"This is often because organizations are still relying on a wide range of applications to collect, process and use data," Jan goes on to say. "In many cases, these apps aren’t connected and define the same data points in multiple different ways – a.k.a. the infamous data silo effect – and more than 50% of companies still struggle with this. There are just too many systems to consult, too many different definitions of data, too much redundancy. In order for data to be effectively put to use, it has to be consolidated and harmonized in a data platform."

It’s a transformation, not an implementation

Even if organizations are aware of this situation and have the very best intentions, they often fail to successfully transform into data companies – a fact that has less to do with intent and more to do with approach.

Even if you buy the best tools and technologies, if you don’t adapt your processes in order to put these tools to use in day-to-day business, you won’t achieve any results.Kristel Demotte, Global VP of Data Solutions at Cegeka

"Enterprises often approach data projects from a pure IT perspective, while it’s actually a much broader evolution that requires a strategy," Kristel explains. "A pure IT perspective may deliver a state-of-the-art platform, but no insights will reach the business. If you don’t adapt your processes in order to put these tools to use in day-to-day business, you won’t achieve any results. Without a strategy, there aren’t even any concrete ambitions to achieve – or the shared mindset needed for enterprise-wide change."

Along the multifaceted road toward becoming a data company, it will be necessary for an organization to invest not only in the right technology, but in change management, employee education and the right profiles for data success.

Data platforms: The heart and soul of the data company

On the technology side, in order for data to serve as central component of an organization’s processes and decision-making, a data platform is an absolute must.

A data platform is a solution that centralizes all information collected by an organization, where it can be properly structured, governed and then funneled out to people, applications and other technology solutions that rely on data to drive business processes and strategic decision making.

"To set up a data platform, you’ll need support from somebody not just familiar with your industry. You need a partner that can identify exactly what configuration is required to respond to your unique business needs and seamlessly integrate the resulting data platform into your IT and business landscape," Jan asserts. "As an experienced cloud, data & analytics and AI implementer, Cegeka is perfectly positioned to help with this."

Checklist Data Maturity