Why we should all be excited about data

Today, riders will be embarking on stage 17 of Le Tour de France which will wind its way through the Alps, covering a distance of 183km, peaking at 2,642 metres at the highest point of the race.

Throughout the event, data and analytics specialist Dimension Data, the official technology partner of Le Tour and a team sponsor, has demonstrated to the world how exciting technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can be when applied to this most compelling and fascinating of sports. Its technology is reportedly creating and analysing more than 3 billion data points during the 21 stages of the tour, while riders will generate over 150 million geospatial and environmental data readings along the 3,540km route.

This week, Dimension Data has also highlighted the importance of such technologies to the world of business. It released its Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business, which examines how organisations are evolving from a traditional office environment to a digital workplace.

According to the study, two-fifths (40 per cent) of 800 organisations in 15 countries across five continents interviewed, said that gaining competitive advantage and improving business process were among the top goals of their digital transformation strategy. Nearly one third (30 per cent) said they were “far along” their digital transformation initiatives and were already reaping the benefits while others were still in the early stages of developing their plans.

The report points out that the digital workplace is no longer solely made up of managers and those managed but is increasingly populated by “virtual employees” who do not exist in a physical sense, but regardless play an important role in the organisation. It states that while AI technology is still in its infancy, it is sufficiently advanced to be working its way into companies in the form of virtual assistants, and, in certain industries such as banking, virtual tellers and virtual advisors:

“Manifested as bots embedded into specific applications, virtual assistants draw on AI engines and machine learning technology to respond to basic queries.”

Krista Brown, Dimension Data’s Group end-user computing, senior vice-president, reckons it is no longer enough to simply implement these technologies though. “Organisations have grown their use of analytics to understand how these technologies impact their business performance: 64 per cent use analytics to improve their customer services, and 58 per cent use analytics to benchmark their workplace technologies.”

In companies which are less advanced with their digital strategies, Brown points out that company culture could be one of the factors impeding it and technology itself. Indeed, she says that technology and corporate culture can “inhibit” rather than encourage “workstyle change”.

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Nonetheless, the report found that the number one barrier to successful adoption of new workstyles is information technology issues as well as organisational issues.

As Rialto has been at pains to point out before, digital transformation is anything but easy and the pressure to develop and progress strategies often means initiatives aren’t always carefully thought through. The mindset shift and culture change required to make workstyle change happen can be a huge deal for the individuals involved.

Leaders must be mindful of these issues when implementing digital strategies or risk leaving people behind. But they must also remember that exciting workforces about the possibilities of digital will help to make the shift. Dimension Data’s survey makes for interesting reading but its use of technology to enhance the consumer’s experience equally helps to light the way.

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