Laggards Beware! Why Transforming with Data, Analytics, and AI is Needed Today

Laggards Beware
Several posts ago, I committed to sharing thoughts on changing the culture, applying self organizing principles, getting more people in the organization to collaborate, and gaining adoption of new technologies. After attending the Strata Data Conference in New York, I realized how important and relevant these questions are today when considering how organizations should better leverage data, analytics, and now AI in decision making.

Change mindsets by being persistent

It's not easy changing leadership mindsets. I recall several years ago working with the marketing department at McGraw Hill Construction (now known as Dodge, Data and Analytics after McGraw Hill divested the company in 2014). People in marketing were asking a ton of "customer 360" questions and about integrating data from multiple web analytics and marketing tools. As the CIO, I couldn't assign the tech team to answer these questions as our data and analytics efforts were prioritized to customer facing products that we were developing for commercial construction contractors and building product manufacturers. Instead, I provided the marketing team Tableau Desktop, gave them access to a database engineer, and provided mentoring and training on integrating data and developing dashboards.

A few months later, we set up a meeting with the President to walk him through the insights, analytics, tools and processes we took to get there.

He watched, listed, and asked questions but he was not impressed. He equated what he saw to "another reporting solution" and failed to grasp how a data driven marketing department with self-serving business intelligence tools was a game change.

But after the group continued to show progress and results, he began to better understand. Several months later, he asked all of us to run a company-wide town hall to showcase the program with the goal of getting more people involved in it.

If leaders let fear dominate the dialog, then little or nothing will get done. 

Now today, as a writer, speaker, and President of StarCIO a digital transformation services company I hear and see how other companies are embarking on this journey. I receive a lot of questions - especially from CIOs and IT leaders who have concerns on deploying more analytical tools across the organization. There are questions around talent and how to attract data scientists to perform the analytics work. There are concerns about data governance around protecting data, data quality, and how to improve data quality. Most concerning to CIO is the fear that business users will create an "urban sprawl" of dashboards, reports, and other artifacts - following the same behaviors done with spreadsheets (just give me the data) or creating dozen, hundreds, or thousands of siloed databases.

It's ok for leaders to have these fears and concerns. It's ok to express them. It is NOT OK to let them dominate the dialog or let them go unanswered. It's the recipe of a stagnant organization.

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