Think about the data your organisation generates – sales and finance information, customer transactions, asset and resource information and the rich data within your business systems. Now think about the less obvious data – system performance, emails, calendar events, documents, sensor information embedded within manufacturing lines, performance figures from your vehicle fleet, and entry and exit events from your buildings.
Used correctly, data provides information that drives value and efficiency, allowing you to personalise and enhance your customer and employee experience, automate services and operate more successfully.
But how do we achieve that goal? The focus on data has undergone a major evolution in recent years. Historically, organisations used data to analyse the past – how they performed last week or last quarter. More recently it has been used to look at real time, present tense performance, allowing organisations to stay nimble. The next natural stage in this evolution, and where technology is increasingly leading us, is using data to predict the future –that’s where its real value lies.
The era of future-focused data is largely down to the growth of cloud computing. Organisations have extremely easy access to cost-efficient amounts of storage and compute power. For example, we’ve built a full Artificial Intelligence stack in the cloud for a Utilities customer with a snapshot of their data landscape, in less than 10 days, with no capital expenditure on hardware at a low running cost which can be turned off immediately or flexed and scaled as required.
Organisations are rightly starting to view data as a key asset and are more inclined to break down internal barriers that historically meant data was held within silos. Now internal teams and IT partners are gaining access to the complete landscape of enterprise data.
However, most organisations don’t realise how much data they have, never mind how to use it to its best advantage. Discovering what data you have is the essential first step in enabling you to generate valuable insights that lead to better decision making.
To demonstrate how data is evolving, let’s look at an example we can all relate to – Emergency Department services. In the past, hospitals looked at waiting times in retrospect to assess performance – information that would be built into resource plans but not really exposed to the end patient.
Currently, hospitals publish near real time waiting times from which patients can determine how long they should expect to wait before treatment – see https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/emergency-department-waiting-times.
To really provide efficiency of service, automatically balancing demand against supply and considering each potential patient’s context, data can be used even more comprehensively.
In the event of an emergency, a patient could ask their home voice assistant device to tell them which Emergency Department (ED) they should go to. That request would automatically use the patient’s location, identify ED departments within reach, use real time traffic information to determine how long it would take to get to each and use historic ED waiting time data to predict which would have the shortest waiting time. It would use contextual information such as the day of the week, the month, whether it’s a bank holiday or there’s a concert in town, the weather and so on. It would do this in a fraction of a second, tell you where you’ll be seen fastest and, just as importantly, where you won’t overburden current services.
This example of a personalised piece of advice using data shows how the future use of data benefits both the citizen/customer and the service provider, enabling them to automatically balance their resources.
I have seen data services increase by 210% over the last 18 months as organisations continue to invest further into data capabilities. The sectors where I think there is most opportunity range from healthcare to education, transport to energy, and banking to capital markets. I see the way forward as being to discover the data that drives their organisation, identify how internal and external data can be harnessed to help them personalise their services and then automate the delivery of services, driving efficiency and effectiveness.
I urge you all to start your own journey on the next phase of data’s evolution. Discover what data you have and explore how you can radically innovate your services to attract and retain more business, perform more efficiently and effectively, minimise risk and ultimately be more profitable as a result. This is an evolution every organisation needs to be part of sooner rather than later.