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5 To-Do's For Leaders Who Are Playing Catch Up On Everything "Data" in 2022

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Data is changing the world and disrupting businesses at an accelerating pace. I went from being on the peripheral to being immersed. It was a lot to digest and learn. Here are some great resources to help you navigate and make sense of it all. They will help increase your data fluency in 2022.

“Are we serving ourselves best to continue to use a 20th century mindset to solve 21st century problems?” ~ Jonathan Reichental, Ph.D.

I have been on a journey. 11 years ago I left the IT world behind to take the content-driven expertise I accumulated and applied it to the local music market. I used that success to buy a second business firmly in the service industry. One mistake I made was not applying the same level of intelligence gathering and due diligence for that second company and venture, as I did the first.

I went on to immerse myself in the service industry, as I realized I knew far less about how to be wildly successful in the service industry as I did while in the military, or in a corporate setting. In hind sight, I wish I would have had a "boot camp" for what being successful as a service provider takes from marketing to operations. I did manage to learn what separates service entities in the marketplace and led a high-performance team to lead in 5-star reviews and achieved multiple years of >30% revenue growth. At the end of the day, I could have prepared for the challenges I faced by understanding the trends and direction of those industries, at the outset, and in a better fashion.

Data, and the role it serves now and in the short-term future, is fueling how winning and losing will be influenced and ultimately determined. As leaders, we need to understand our own data fluency and that of our teams. Unless you follow data trends or it is part of your job, there is a great deal to understand and navigate. I've assembled a few thoughts and resources that helped me digest what I needed to know. I needed some good sources to help bridge that 11 year absence from being in the information technology industry. My target audience are leaders who know a little about how data is shaping our world but could use a nudge in the right direction. If that is you, you will appreciate this.

1. Check in NOW!

I love deep dives and rabbit holes on YouTube, but sometimes I need something concise and on point without having to sift through mediocrity before finding a gem. Here, the task is to get familiar with what is occurring now in data, analytics, monetization and business disruption innovations. I would recommend searching data topics on the Learning platform on LinkedIn, which you can access as a free trial. Introduction to Data Science is a good one.

If you are new to data, marrying data and design together, or just want to understand some mechanics of it all, try reading this open source book, "Data + Design". This will help you out a bunch. Here are a few decent videos that can give you a 101 understanding of data science:

2. Get familiar with smart(er) cities and contemplate opportunities.

Jonathan Reichental is someone worth following. In particular, he has great vision for community and the direction we are heading. The blistering rate of technological advancement means many of his observations are forming, as we speak, or are already seeing fruition. Take an hour and listen to this video and contemplate what innovations you see possible. Contemplate what opportunities might exist already that you pursue, are imminent that you can plan for, or you innovate yourself. Jonathan has some fantastic course work in LinkedIn.

3. How can you monetize your current data?

Data monetization is a common thread for many of the fastest growing and highest performing companies. They have incorporated value or revenue generation from the data they collect and create as part of their over-arching strategy. My brief, but rigorous dive into this, has left me to believe all business leaders, especially C-level executives should be questioning why data monetization isn't part of their strategy... if it currently isn't. The McKinsey and Company whitepaper I link to below states that, "Overall, respondents report that senior-management involvement in data-and-analytics activities is the number-one contributor to reaching their objectives."

Fundamentally, as it stands now, the ways to monetize your data equate to: Selling your data (Data as a service); or Selling insights in on form or another. Data as a service is where your data is sold directly to data buyers or intermediates. The data can be in its raw form, anonymized and/or aggregated. Here buyers are looking to form their own insights as to what the data is saying.

Selling insights differs in that you are providing applied analytics to provide that insight. This can be sold directly or in analytics-enabled apps ready formats. When thinking value to customers, analytics can be used in real-time. This value can have a monetary value. In this sense, you are using a analytics-enabled platform as a service. This can accelerate time to market, increase customer retention and lower TCO. The monetization is in value obtained and benefit realized.

Wikipedia offers this breakdown for types of data monetization:

  1. Internal data monetization - An organization's data is used internally, resulting in economic benefit. This is commonly the case in organizations using analytics to uncover insights, resulting in improved profit, cost savings or the avoidance of risk. Internal data monetization is currently the most common form of monetization, requiring far fewer security, intellectual property, and legal precautions when compared to other types. The potential economic gains from this type of data monetization are limited by the organization's internal structure and situation.

  2. External data monetization - A person or organization makes data they possess available on a for-fee basis to external parties, or as a broker for same. This type of monetization is less common and requires various methods to distribute the data to potential buyers and consumers. However, the economic gain that results from collecting data, packaging and distributing it, can be quite large.

An important consideration is this space is evolving as we speak. Business-case benefit and internal data monetization are not the same thing. Data monetization is about a systemic approach to innovation, response-time and what is in the driver's seat. In this case, the data is driving. Here are a couple of resources you should consider listening to/reading.

4. Have the mindset of modern strategy, execution, leadership and culture, read Clearing the Digital BLUR

As leaders, we need a management playbook for the new digital challenge. BLUR is an acronym that stands for: Boundary-less organizations, Limitless Digitization, Unbound Innovation, and Relentless Iterations. This is based on a book by Rajiv Jayaraman, a TEDx speaker and a thought leader in the space of digital transformation and learning. Rajiv states, "With management playbooks from the industrial age offering very little meaningful guidance, we need a fresh perspective to respond to the digital challenge. Clearing the digital BLUR fills the gap by providing a guidebook for leaders and managers to leapfrog into the digital world, supported by a modern Strategy, Execution, leadership and culture."

For me, there was a key take-away/habit I have incorporated in how I look at all the companies I do business with, have interactions with, or even are simply aware of. I look all around to me to understand where those lines of demarcation between what is considered within an organization and what is outside of the organization are. They are not a clear and concise as they once were. This is why boundary-less organizations are more and more common. All some companies do is provide the platform by which providers and customers interact. This is not a new thing. However, the rapid acceleration and blurring of those lines is what is important to understand and be aware of, especially regarding how this might impact you.

Equally, understanding that more and more things that were once physical products are becoming digital products. Music, books and film are just a couple of obvious examples. More and more physical items are becoming digital or digitally prepared. Limitless Digitization is also about data and we know more and more things are becoming "smart" and capturing or providing data. This again, is limitless. Unbound innovation means that industry after industry are being disrupted by technological advancements and today's innovations tend to impact multiple industries simultaneously. We are redefining what is "possible" on daily basis. I am perpetually noting new innovation and logging innovating ideas. The key here is that data is driving the innovation and the disruption of businesses.

Finally, Relentless Iterations ultimately means a shift from the industrial production environment were products clearly had a completed state when rolled off the assembly line to a digital world where products are in a constant state of learning and changing. Products are always becoming, always evolving and always arriving. It is important to contemplate how relentless iterations benefit you and your business.

5. Challenge your business model... What if you were a start-up today? Create a Lean Canvas today Foundations | LEANSTACK

Lean canvas is not a new idea by any stretch. However, it can be a invaluable tool for ensuring you are aligned with the best possible success, even if have a mature product or service. Using hypothetical changes can be worked through with relative ease and impact/results explored. It best serves as a tool for exploring new product, new markets and varying combinations. The biggest magic it can influence is how, as a leaders, you view and drive innovation.

But wait, isn't Lean Canvas use only beneficial for start-ups? Nope. I would encourage leaders to become familiar and capable of completing a lean canvas exercise. It is built on an older business model canvas, but a few key changes were made and those changes really fuel some of the power of the lean canvas.

I have found that it can be a validation tool and it can be a steering tool for modifications to an existing business models. Yes, it is idealistic for start-ups. Why? It facilitates innovation in a new world where "speed of learning is the new unfair advantage". Gone is the old world where products are hard to build, competitors are fewer in numbers and choices are limited for customers. The new world demands faster time-to-market where more competition awaits you and customers have numerous choices.

Leanstack offers a free course that explains this in greater detail. I highly recommend a quick dive to understand the fundamentals. Here are a few video links that can help as well:

As leaders, we have numerous challenges. As non-IT leaders, we can no longer think that data and its impact on our teams and our businesses is something for IT personnel only to be concerned with. By seizing the opportunity to increase our own data fluency and literacy, we will be poised to lead our teams to greater success and unlock the innovators inside us. I wish you great success!

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