Mediaplanet: How has the buzz around “Big Data” changed the global technology market in the past five years?

Anthony Viel: It’s fair to say that over the last five years, the driver has been the volume of money that has been put into developing big data platforms. This has all been based on the notion that if we are able to store, access, and analyze more information, closer to real time, it should add up to great value. But, like a lot of big promises, that has not quite come to fruition, because the value of data is only realised once action is taken. 

Realizing value from investments in Big Data

MP: What else is needed, besides massive investments, to achieve the goals that have proved elusive thus far?

AV: To get the benefits from big data, organizational transformation is necessary. Business was previously organized on the basis that data is hard to get, is not in real time, and is looking backwards. Now not only data, but also predictive insight through analytics, is available in real time. That fundamentally changes the way that you do business. So there’s a real mindset shift needed to move from the world pre-big data to the current world of big data and advanced analytics in order to achieve an acceptable ROI and truly gain a competitive advantage. The question for businesses is now about the transformation that needs to occur in order to get a return on their investment in big data.

MP: How have the emergence of artificial intelligence and augmented reality changed the landscape of data analysis?

AV: Fundamentally, the transformation is going to occur on the back of these new technologies. If you think about artificial intelligence, it focuses on the interface between the human and the machine as opposed to what the machine is actually doing. One of those new interfaces is augmented reality. An applied real-world example is well underway and within 18 months, you will be able to get affordable augmented reality glasses. That’s going to be critical in two ways. It’s going to help the human interact more seamlessly with the machine, and will also enable the machine to collect more and more data on who the user is as an individual, customer, consumer, patient, or constituent.

MP: What do you define as an Insight Driven Organization (IDO)?

AV: When we talk about new technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence, the opportunity to become an IDO is improving every day at an exponential rate.

An IDO is an organization that brings data, analytic insight, and reasoning into every decision made within the organization. This means getting the right information, in the right format, to the right person at the right time. It is an aspiration and in my opinion, there are very few IDOs in the world today, but the rewards for companies that become an IDO are tremendous, it is a huge competitive advantage.

MP: What type of challenges are Canadian businesses facing when they start their journeys to become IDOs?

AV: We know from statistically polling across North America and other jurisdictions that technology and data must be accompanied by a strategy on how to deliver the desired impact in terms of having the right people and capabilities in place. It’s not necessarily about the technical aspects, but also making the necessary changes in organizational culture and mindset and then reengineering your processes accordingly. In order to achieve that, you need to build a team with talent capabilities in both understanding data and applying the insight to solve business challenges, what we refer to as ‘purple people’ because they have a mix of both red (technical) and blue (business) skills.

Leveraging an IDO framework for long-term success

MP: How does IDO framework prepare organizations for long-term success? 

AV: We definitively know that the more mature you are as an IDO, the more likely you are to exceed corporate goals. First and foremost an IDO framework allows organizations to test, measure, and learn. An IDO framework also makes organizations more clinical and deliberate in how they measure the value being delivered through their programs. This means having a robust framework in place to show progress and the delivery of value from the investments made in order to validate that your commitment to a particular program is heading in the right direction.

MP: What does a successful IDO look like?

AV: To become an IDO, it is essential to address each of the five building blocks, which are: Strategy, People, Process, Data, and Technology. This means that to truly be an IDO and be successful you must extend your focus beyond technology and data to encompass strategy, people and process. And it hinges on engaging in short, sharp, agile pieces of work that create value quickly, without requiring big up-front investments. This allows you not only to create one integrated source of the truth, it gives you the ability to grow revenue, reduce costs, mitigate risk, and compete more effectively.

MP: How do you see the future of the data analytics industry changing in the next five years?

AV: It’s going one way – towards a prosperous future. Moving forward, data will be an organization’s most important resource and we are going to see more and more organizations competing on data. This doesn’t mean organizations will be able to out-compete on data science, computer learning or digital experience. The way that you will win in the future is by having access to data that nobody else has.