Data: How European companies are competing for the most valuable resource
Data is driving the new economy. As we enter the fourth industrial revolution and the world ventures into unknown territory, we experience the tension that accompanies any revolution—new regulations, pricing concerns, debates over ownership and rights. The digital information that fuels this new economy is unlike any other resource, so we’re developing our frameworks and methodologies while the quantity, quality and complexity of the data exponentially grows.
Every business in every country is trying to determine how to drive efficiencies and revenue with big data, AI and analytics tools that allow them to extract a competitive business advantage from the mountains of data that are being generated each day. Lawmakers in those countries are grappling with questions that have no easy answers.
Not all countries keeping pace
Turns out our German friends are the world leaders in global data and analytics adoption while the UK is being outpaced by every other country assessed except India and Japan, according to the Data and Analytics Trends Study 2017 by Teradata. While the majority of businesses seem to understand the importance of a data strategy, there is still a lag in execution. In the study, only 54 percent of those surveyed in the UK felt their organisations were effectively adopting data and analytics, compared to 82 percent for German respondents and 77 percent for Spain.
Top considerations for the new data-driven economy
Let’s take a look at a few of the challenges European companies face as they compete for today’s most valuable resource – data.
Different market behaviour
There is a network effect that occurs with data. The more valuable data a company gathers, the more insights it can extract from it to enhance its products or services. Better products and services lead to more business. That new business leads to even more data. The cycle continues. And the more powerful a singular business becomes – think Facebook or Google – the easier it is to squash the competition. In the age of information, they can use (often proprietary) tools to monitor the competition and take action prior to them becoming a threat.
Antitrust rules need modernised
While some of the concerns of traditional antitrust rules such as price gouging are not raising red flags in the era of big data – in fact, many of the services are free – the reality is that giant tech companies are extremely powerful because of the data they have access to and control. The traditional way of thinking and regulating business does not seem to apply to the concerns of the digital age. For example, instead of considering the size of two firms wanting to merge, perhaps the data assets of each need to be examined.
Who owns the data? Consumers freely hand over information in exchange for the conveniences and services they get in return. However, if there was more transparency about what information is tracked and how much its worth when it’s sold, perhaps we wouldn’t be so fast at giving it away. Additionally, the same information can be used by multiple entities even at the same time, so determining who owns the data is quite complex.
Data has value, but it’s not a commodity as we typically view it. At any given moment, the exact worth of a bit of information changes and “infonomics” – pricing methodologies applied to data – is in infancy. To overcome the pricing challenges, some organisations such as Britain’s National Health Service and DeepMind, Alphabet’s AI division decided no money would change hands when they forged a partnership that allowed an exchange of anonymous patient data for the medical insights extracted from them.
While there is much to figure out with our new data-driven economy, one thing is for certain. Every company – no matter where they are in the world – needs to have a plan to utilise data, today’s most valuable resource.
Bernard Marr is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant and analytics, KPI and Big Data expert. His new book Data Strategy: How to profit from a world of big data, analytics and the Internet of Things is out now.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”