C5: Digital transformation

Written by: C5 Alliance Posted: 22/05/2019

John Gamble_C5AllianceJohn Gamble, Sponsor of the Data Practice at C5 Alliance, believes that a new generation of vendor analytic tools is revolutionising what businesses can do with their data. However, data quality is the key to reaping the benefits of these developments 

Digital transformation is a hot topic for many organisations right now. In a recent article – Digital transformation: your journey to the cloud (click here to read) – James Russell, Head of C5’s Cloud Practice, discussed how cloud or utility computing is enabling this technological shift. 

He wrote: ‘Digital transformation is the introduction of technology to all areas of an organisation, resulting in operational improvements and how better value and service is delivered to customers. It is made possible by lower cost computer power, storage and bandwidth, paired with increasingly affordable technologies such as cloud, mobile applications, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, internet of things (IoT) and machine learning.’ 

But how has the cloud changed expectations regarding the use of data in organisations? And what are the steps needed to ensure that any data initiatives set off from a firm foundation? 

A changed data landscape

In the last five years, cloud computing has changed the landscape with regards to what people expect to be able to do with data. In 2015, Joseph Sirosh, when he was Corporate VP Data Analytics at Microsoft, wrote: ‘A new era of analytics is being engendered by cloud computing. The cloud gives us the power to collect and integrate data from an enormous variety of sources, to process big data at amazing scale and economics, to dramatically simplify development and deployment, and offer amazing intelligent APIs and applications as hosted services.’ (click here to read

Four years on, this is coming to fruition. Online services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Flickr, Facebook, WhatsApp and a host of others have changed the way we live our daily lives. How many of us actually watch TV shows live these days? Typically, we watch on-demand.

The same is true regarding how organisations store, collect and use data. The cloud has changed expectation and capability in this area. The box at the end shows 10 ways in which this has happened over the past few years, all enabled by cloud computing. 

A new generation of tools

As well as providing more data than ever before, these trends are directly influencing a new generation of vendor analytic tools that are shaping how companies work with and interact with data. Microsoft recently launched its Common Data Model, which integrates with its Power BI Data Flows product.

The Common Data Model provides access to pre-built machine learning and analytic models, further enabling capabilities available to firms. All you have to do is map your data points into the model.

More than ever before, we can now use data to understand what’s happening within a department, team or organisation; understand a process better and how to optimise it; use the latest AI or machine learning techniques to solve advanced classification or optimisation problems; or use data to make predictions. Data applied to business problems creates insight and this drives innovation and value. 

At C5, we helped a start-up called GardenTags, a social network for gardeners, to build a mobile app where users can take a photo of a plant and then the app (via the cloud) classifies it for you and tells you what it is directly from the photo, along with supplying care instructions and contacts for people to help you look after the plant. How cool is that?

Quality control

Yet, all of this is predicated by the quality of the data available to you to put into the models. Yes, we have more capability than ever before, but the ‘rubbish-in, rubbish-out’ scenario still applies and, to get the most out of the new capabilities, is perhaps more relevant than ever.

Data quality in source applications needs to be managed and controlled with appropriate governance rules applied to ensure it is complete, up to date, available for use and, where required, the appropriate consents are in place and understood so we know what the data can be used for. 

There are many techniques and software products that can be used for managing data. Master Data Management is itself a discipline, but the best approach is always where the organisational culture recognises the value of data and its importance in enabling innovation and driving the organisation forward. To get to this point requires cultural change, but there are steps that can be taken to shorten the process.  

First, data needs to be owned. Each core data point in an organisation should have an owner responsible for it. Data is an asset of the organisation and should be treated and looked after in the same 
way as any other asset. 

Second, data quality levels need to be monitored and exceptions highlighted. Business intelligence or data analytical tools, as well as being used to interact with and report on business performance, can be used to report on data quality levels.

Data profiling tools can produce metrics that can be sliced-and-diced just like any other metric and business rules (for example, every customer must have a date of birth within a given range) and can be applied on data sets to highlight quality issues. From this, KPIs can be produced, issues detected and remedial action taken. 

Finally, business processes should be updated to always address data quality concerns at the source of the data. If you are using tools within the reporting tier to clean, enhance and improve data quality issues, then you introduce the potential for inconsistency in query results, reports and insights generated. 

The right expertise

The use of cloud services for managing and working with data can undoubtedly play a key role in any digital transformation, but like many things, it is about the journey and embracing the concept of continuous improvement. New tools and capabilities have undoubtedly enabled businesses to use data to innovate in new ways to introduce services, solve problems, improve performance and profitability. 

The journey can be made as smooth as possible by defining objectives to meet your business challenges and by utilising the right expertise. 

At C5, our Advise, Build and Run service delivery model can enable the digital transformation journey through our best of breed solutions, while not forgetting data quality. 

If you would like to discuss your data requirements, please get in touch with Richard Welsh, Chief Commercial Officer, C5 Alliance at Richard.Welsh@c5alliance.com 

• This advertising feature was first published in the May/June 2019 edition of Businesslife magazine

How the cloud has changed expectation and capability in the data arena

Big Data  The volume, variety and velocity of customer data has massively increased… if only I could analyse and understand what this is telling us 
Machine Learning I have lots of data but I can’t put it to good use… our operations teams would be transformed if we could predict what is going to happen
Internet Of Things  More information is created and made available by connected devices on the premises and in the cloud… which things are worth measuring and what could the value be? 
Social  We already monitor Twitter and Facebookfeeds… but really need to understand what the trends are and whether a campaign is successful
Real Time I’m connected via email all day every day, but why can’t I get at my data until tomorrow?… if only we could react quickly enough to meet customer expectations in a world that works 24/7
Cloud & Hybrid  I can access my pictures and music from anywhere… and expect the same ability to securely access and share business information
Data Analytics  Modern business relies on workers being informed and making decisions based on evidence, not gut feeling… if only everyone had access to information when they need it
Mobile  I use my phone and tablet to access my data on the move… and would like to securely access business information on the move
Visualisation  It is really hard to understand what the data is telling me… data action would be transformed if it was more obvious what the data was telling me
Security & Privacy  I need to be sure our data and customer details are safe… older/legacy technologies are most at risk


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