The people factor of data driven value
Within the next decade artificial intelligence (AI), fueled by massive quantities of data and advancements in machine learning, has the potential to add nearly 16 trillion dollars to the global economy. This shift will impact the skills required to maintain a competitive advantage across many industries. Yet more than 80% of business leaders do not understand the data, infrastructure, and skills required to leverage AI into a competitive business advantage.
When was the last time you examined a complex situation and asked: “What does the data tell us?” or “Is there more data?” These are familiar refrains in my line of business and there is rarely a straightforward answer. A common theme arises in response: many complex challenges can be resolved through the careful analysis of data. Leading executives are actively seeking skills in data science and analytics to leverage AI and machine learning as organizational priorities. As they move from experimentation to implementation many businesses are struggling, but for those who are successful they are reaping significant gains resulting in bottom line growth.
Expertise in advanced analytics required
Organizations have been collecting digital data for decades and it is easy to assume that there is a wealth of insight waiting to be discovered within. It can be a hard lesson to learn that in order to tap into those insights there is often a heavy lift required to properly cleanse, categorize, and otherwise govern that data for collection, use, and sharing. Upon analysis it is often determined that too much data has been captured and retained, resulting in additional work to ensure current, clean, and curated data. This work requires a specific set of skills and an understanding of how the data can be leveraged for analysis. The saying “garbage in, garbage out” applies when you try to pull insights from unstructured, confusing data.
You may know that you have the relevant data stored somewhere. You’ve heard that the technology exists to build a program to analyze the data. Perhaps you have researched the topic and have read articles about how to build an AI model over the weekend, or even in 10 minutes. Are you positioned to lead your industry in the data revolution?
That 10-minute model you read about is not likely to deliver meaningful results. The simplicity of a meaningful model built over the weekend is a myth and is not going to support a complex enterprise-grade solution. If your processes and infrastructure were not designed for this type of work you can expect a lot of rework, frustration, and flawed outputs. Your team of business and technology experts may be set up to fail if they are not supported by people with expertise and experience in advanced analytics.
Tackle the skills gap with training, hiring, and partnering
I have discussed these challenges with many partners over the past five years. They recognized the trend towards integrating AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics into their business and prioritized creating teams to take on this important work. To ensure the right mix of skilled teams, the most successful businesses use a combination of hiring, training, and partnering with other professionals who specialize in these fields.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend in workplace dynamics that was already well underway. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they are experiencing skills gaps in their workforce or expected them within a few years. To emerge stronger in the post-pandemic era, companies must reskill their workforces now to deliver on new business models in the important months ahead.
The relevant skillsets have grown exponentially and will continue to be in high demand globally. I have both witnessed and participated in the journey of building these teams and can confidently say that it is a significant and long-term strategic undertaking. Companies cannot be resilient if their workforces aren’t. Those who have found a fast-track to success leveraged partnerships with organizations who devote considerable time, energy, and funding to developing a team of data scientists with an emphasis on business consulting skills.
Once these partnerships are established and begin to produce actionable insights and results, businesses can parlay that success into either further investing in hiring and training or expanding the partnership into other areas of their organization. To start the journey, the strategy is not “either/or” but rather finding the correct combination of hiring, training, and partnering to build the competency within their organization.
I am fortunate to have a talented team of data scientists, business analysts, and subject matter experts to help derive insights and unlock the power of our data. Over the past six years we have invested deliberately in hiring and training individuals with advanced education qualifications (at the Master and PhD level) in fields such as mathematics, statistics, computer science, geospatial/GIS, and engineering. We have prioritized hiring and training people who demonstrate keen ability in business consulting and can ‘translate’ back and forth between the technical and business conversations.
Quick wins fuelled by long term strategy
What does the path look like for tackling urgent projects today while planning for tomorrow’s challenges? How can we quickly unlock the dormant power of our data to drive value and better business results? My experience has demonstrated over and over that the best path for Canadian businesses to tackle this skills gap is to employ a combination of training, hiring, and partnering for success. This is a long-term strategy but the potential for quick wins exponentially increases by leveraging the partnership ecosystem.
These partnerships can be leveraged to help understand the value of your existing data, plan and execute on data governance defined for your environment, prioritize projects, and create a roadmap for building your team and competencies for both short and long term. This is how you can tap into the $16T of growth in the coming years and position your business for long term success.
So much to learn
The Betty-Ann Heggie Womentorship Program is an opportunity to connect with successful women across a wide variety of disciplines. The program started in 2010 and is administered by the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. Protégés are individually matched...Read More