As digital transformation moves into maturity, we look to the emerging discipline of data transformation and what it means for businesses.

From Digital Transformation to Data Transformation

Digital transformation has commanded thousands of column inches over the past few years and millions of hours of time, meeting and investment. Digital continues to deliver incredible changes to new and existing business processes, as well as the customer experience. There is no doubt that disruptors such as Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Purple and Netflix have all used the digital landscape to reimagine traditional sectors finding better, faster, smarter and cheaper ways to reach their customers.

Meanwhile more established businesses have adopted digital technology to offer their customers greater flexibility and an omni-channel experience through the adoption of services such as click and collect or the development of branded apps. There are also a lot of business processes that have been pushed down (or maybe even outsourced) to the customer also, under the guise of putting the customer in control.

The question how ever is whether digital transformation is distracting too many people and too many companies from the biggest challenge and opportunity – data transformation?

The power of data transformation

Every organisation has data and lots of it. Traditionally data was the domain of the IT department and it was used to drive business critical systems and business intelligence. Then as CRM and digital marketing came to the fore the marketing department muscled in and developed its own data. Now every part of the business eco-system is bringing new data – from IoT, supply chain, logistics to open and public data sources.
Too often data is siloed by the structure of organisations, their ways of working, business processes and by a raft of legacy technology sitting alongside the latest technology and cloud solutions. Data isn’t powerful when it is owned by the few – its power comes being owned and used by the entire enterprise. This way it can deliver tangible business benefits rather than aiding simple functional objectives.

Moving from buzzword to agent of business change

All of this can only happen though with data transformation – when your technology and tools allow you to have the right data, in the right place, at the right time to support the right decisions. Such a statement a few years ago was a pipe dream but developments in AI, cloud technology, massive increases in computational power and flexible ways of bringing structure and unstructured data together are making this the art of the possible. Data transformation is about moving big data from a buzzword to an agent of business change and growth – and doing this with computational speed and automation so you don’t need armies of scares data scientists to make this work.
The results can be astonishing; the impossible becomes the possible. This has become our day-to-day reality. For instance when helping a mobile company monetise their data we took inspiration from the astrophysics principle of Dispersion of Light. We applied this to mobile and cell tower signals and built a Retail Viability Index for shopping centres. This meant we could anonymously measure and predict the movement of different segments of audiences across various retail outlets. For a well-known restaurant chain we built a model which automates decision making for the 14 lunch and dinner sessions a week across their 157 restaurant portfolio. The model helps them predict optimal offers, cover turnover, spend per head, volume of customers and mix of orders. It was built using two years of training data and to ensure decision making is as effective as possible we factored in influencers such as seasonality, bank holidays, car parking and changing offer partners.

Digital transformation has had its day. But now is the time for data transformation.

This article was published in Decision Marketing on 8 May 2019.

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