Data-Driven Business Strategy

Big data and analytics have the ability to transform company operations and influence client interactions. As a result, both are at the top of the corporate agenda. In the search for value, companies have relied on adding new capabilities and assets, studying historical customer behavior patterns, and following major business trends. Traditional business strategy and planning were once static processes performed annually, if at all.  Leaders in today’s customer-centric ecosystem create value by mining data and conducting analysis in real time. Business strategy is dynamic, ever evolving and driven by insights from data.

The emergence of data-driven business models is helping companies deliver performance gains not seen since the 1990s when core processes were reengineered. A study by the University of Cambridge showed that data-driven businesses have output and productivity gains that are 5-6% higher than companies whose processes are not data driven. The use of analytics to extract insight and embed it back into organizational processes is a key enabler of business transformation.

The development and execution of a data-driven business model requires several key elements. These include:

  • Strong technology leadership. The CIO and/or CTO must work closely with business leaders to ensure there is a focus on business value creation. C-suite executives must embrace a corporate culture that enables the use of data-driven decision-making.
  • A willingness to consider outside perspectives. These can come from customers, suppliers, partners or people in other industries. When studying customer behaviors these outside parties may provide data, insight and help speed offerings to market.
  • Strong executive sponsorship and leadership. Some analytic programs simply enhance existing business. Others are highly disruptive and require a new business model or a separate business unit to support them.
  • The skills to carry out strategy, statistical evaluation, and modeling of complex data sets. These skills need to be placed within marketing, sales, finance and other functional areas and complement existing teams.

The lack of strong data management skills may limit the ability to curate, merge and maintain multiple sources of data. Technology must be in place to handle processing, storage, and analysis of large volumes of data. In many cases these investments can be costly and require IT processes and systems to be redesigned.  

Best practices in data-driven business strategy can often be found in technology-driven companies. Indeed is an example of a company with a data-driven business model. As the world’s #1 job site, Indeed’s mission is help people get jobs. Indeed.com’s websites attract over 200 million unique visitors every month from over 60 countries.

Many external factors impact Indeed. For example, changes in the labor market and the complexion of the workforce based on the outcome of elections are reflected in the underlying data from job seekers and job listings. To get the most from this large amount of information Indeed has embraced a culture that trusts the data. This is key to their success. Business leaders have been trained to use data to make key decisions. Business strategies are supported by data.

Key principles allow them to use data and analytics effectively. They continually expose metrics to improve team performance, and they use data (internal and external) to understand the behaviors that matter most to each segment of their client base. Business strategists, analysts, and managers are trained in all aspects of data analysis and know the KPIs that drive their business.

IT and the lines of business each play a unique role. IT is responsible for providing the infrastructure, tooling, and data model. Each line of business has dedicated strategists and analysts to drive business decisions and improve the customer experience.

As they continue to grow, the volume and velocity of data create unique technical challenges. Indeed found limitations in traditional data query and analytic products. In response they developed Imhotep, a system for large-scale analytics and machine learning which allows them to execute complex queries on large data sets in near-real time. Indeed is a great example of a company pushing the boundaries of big data and analytics and succeeding with a data-driven business strategy.

 

This blog was co-authored by Jeff Marinstein and Brian Gavin, Customer Experience and Strategy consultant.

The Role of Analytics in Disaster Recovery

This is part 1 of a multi-part series on the evolution of analytics in disaster recovery

It may seem odd to discuss the role of analytics in the field of disaster recovery. These disciplines appear to have little in common. Wikipedia describes Disaster Recovery (DR) as a set of policies and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster. Analytics is described as the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.

In this series I'll discuss how analytics will improve resilience, lower risk and enhance business continuity. I'll explore how analytic DR services could come to market, which parties stand to benefit most, and some of the challenges that lie ahead. Part 1 will discuss how analytics will enhance disaster recovery (near term) and a vision in which analytics and automation are combined to improve risk management. 

The evolution of DR closely follows the development of IT, providing methods, products, and services to recover systems within required time frames and levels of data currency. From the early 1980’s until about 5 years ago disaster recovery mainly focused on the backup and recovery of physical computer systems. Given the need to recover physical systems to a like environment, vendors aggregated clients with like IT environments to provide shared DR services. These services made DR more affordable to many companies. This model of recovering physical systems worked well when acceptable downtime for most IT systems could be measured with a calendar.

Today, this is no longer true. Over 90% of all new applications are being developed for the Cloud. Cloud infrastructure, application characteristics and data structures are different. Cloud workloads are deployed in virtual environments, often spread across geographic boundaries. Many companies use combinations of private and public (hybrid) Clouds to run their applications. Cloud resources are dynamically added and removed based on capacity demand. And forget that calendar; downtime tolerance for most Cloud systems is minimal, measured with either a clock or stopwatch. 

By capturing and analyzing metadata stored in the Cloud stack companies will be able to gain deep insight into data protection and disaster recovery. Analytics can be applied across the IaaS/PaaS layer and across DR functions to help companies better understand data protection and DR functions such as backup, replication, DR testing, and system recovery. It should be noted that some tools used in physical DR setups capture data that can be analyzed to gain insight into discrete functions, e.g. the success rate of data backups. Cloud analytics will allow companies to gather information across the spectrum of data protection and DR functions to gain insight into how DR is working, and how Cloud resources can be optimized. Analytic data and algorithms will be used to make recommendations on how DR processes can be improved to produce better outcomes.

DR analytics will benefit companies and vendors alike. DRaaS vendors will use analytics to optimize DR capacity and costs across Cloud infrastructure. Metadata can be mined across customer segments to produce useful benchmark data helping customers improve DR and BC management.

The first wave of analytic implementations will be used to help companies improve data protection, monitor compliance, enhance DR testing, and design affordable resilience for critical IT systems. Analytics will also be used to help optimize DR Cloud capacity, costs, performance, and resource allocation.

But the use of analytics will not stop there. Cloud automation, inter-Cloud operability, IoT, and predictive analytics will be combined to usher in a new era that may change how DR is performed today. I define this new era as predictive risk management. Predictive analytics will examine a variety of threat and risk data (in real time) and determine if critical Cloud workloads are exposed to unacceptable levels of risk. These analytic models will be combined with Cloud automation to move workloads out of harms way. This model of resilience will change how companies manage risk and how DRaaS vendors provide service. In future blogs I will discuss how this model might evolve and some of the challenges involved in bringing predictive risk services to market.

Disaster recovery techniques and technologies have evolved greatly over the past 30 years. Analytics in DR and the rise of Cloud computing will bring significant benefits helping companies design truly resilient systems and optimize DR functions in ways never before possible.