“Barely controlled chaos in a highly complex environment with fragmented innovation solutions”–that’s how one of our clients recently described their organization. I hear versions of this all the time, so if that’s how you feel, trust me–you’re not the only one!
We’re in a time when adaptability and speed are make-or-break, but fragile infrastructure and fragmented data, tools, and processes keep tripping up plans. I see it over and over. It’s why digital modernization is so important. Organizations need a stronger foundation that makes it easier to extract insights that can really make a difference to business results, to adopt new tech, and to deliver products and services at scale. But building that foundation won’t be a quick or straightforward fix. I’m talking about consolidating your current tech stack, plus introducing new implementations, integrations, and system improvements. It’s a lot! To succeed, 3 areas in particular are going to demand your attention and planning–unlocking data, improving (or replacing!) aging infrastructure, and increasing interconnectivity.
(BTW: This is blog 2 of 5 in a series on key priorities for business and tech leaders. My prior blog intros these priorities and other influential marketplace trends.)
Unlocking hidden insights by unifying fragmented data
Most companies struggle with disconnected data and insights spread across systems and departments. When we come into an organization, we routinely find departments trying to solve problems on their own with off-the-the shelf systems (including Excel). While everyone has good intentions, what happens is that they create tech and data silos across the organization. Eventually, a dozen disconnected applications are capturing (but not sharing!!) similar data. The other challenge many of our clients face is the sheer volume and complexity of data collected for personalizing customer or student experiences. Data winds up scattered across different teams, files, websites, and systems, stored in ways that are too painful to query or analyze. Yet all this powerful data is just waiting to be unleashed!
As the purse strings tighten, leaders can’t afford to leave those insights untapped or to support disparate systems. And we definitely shouldn’t be missing out on sharing valuable data across teams, where combined with the power of human creativity, new ideas can emerge; aggregating data so that it is easily accessible is a must! Organizations need to integrate and scale solutions that work, and ditch the rest. So often I see people throwing good money after a bad solution that’s not working for their business. If you don’t have the expertise in house, find a partner who can help centralize your data and transform this goldmine of information into actionable insights.
Increasing flexibility by addressing aging infrastructure
Tech debt and aging patchwork infrastructure are a real roadblock to innovation and growth. Perhaps the problems resulted from a merger or acquisition, siloed planning, or moving fast while addressing pressing issues (like responding to shifting customer behaviors in a pandemic for example!). Whatever the cause, aging and disjointed systems are holding companies back. It’s time to address that tech debt and say goodbye to archaic systems in favor of more resilient, flexible infrastructure. But know that lack of clarity around ownership and questions around the impact of system deprecation is almost certain to cause problems. To minimize issues, start by gathering and documenting this info, and be sure to always have a super detailed and thorough change management plan!
(A tip from our robots: API layers can help you transition aging tech stacks. Rather than fully reengineering a tech stack from scratch, you can leverage APIs as an intermediary to create consistent access and replace the systems behind the scenes piece by piece, allowing your organization to deal with the change in more manageable chunks.)
Preparing for the future by increasing interconnectivity
One huge positive is that everyone now sees the power of connected data, systems, and “things”. Companies recognize that data surrounds everything, and that data models should be planned intentionally from the start of a project. They’re asking the right questions, like: How will we use integration to connect this data to that data? Can we use sensors to track movement of physical items? How will we ensure data integrity across systems? How do we extract those juicy insights to become a more data-led organization? I’m so glad to see leaders doing this planning up front!
In some cases, I see interconnectivity extending even further as companies expose APIs to products and experiences outside their organizations. For users, this opens the door for highly curated end-to-end experiences that cut across multiple tasks and organizations. Of course, creating these experiences is not without challenges, including dealing with data and API inconsistencies. Using AI to translate data between different formats could be a game-changer, benefiting both companies and users alike, so keep an eye on advancements in this area!
Next up, I’ll explore how automation and journey-centered experiences can help with cost reduction and efficiency. Later in the series, I’ll talk about trends in personalization and engagement, plus discuss when it makes sense to seek outside expertise and guidance on your initiatives.
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This CEO Report was written by Tracey Zimmerman, President & CEO of Robots & Pencils.