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Life After COVID – three key focus areas for Data & AI leaders to consider moving forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major disruption and an impact to most things we know; our daily lives, food shortages, uncertainty in global financial system, loss of productivity across all sectors, shutdowns and isolation, major strain on health system and infrastructure, and saddest of all – loss of lives. We live in an environment that is unsettling and uncertain. As we continue to stay current and up-to-date through monitoring social media, news channels, and chats via mobile interactions, we rely on data to stay up-to-date: information we consume and information we produce.

Life After COVID – three key focus areas for Data & AI leaders to consider moving forward

We now see “data” mentioned and valued outside the typical organisational context more than ever. News channels provide full coverage on COVID-19 and constantly show and anatomise data figures and data-sets. Data is the new universal language that everyone is glued to.

Data powers everything we do; from personal and corporate lives to our health system and crisis management. We know that data is critical to supporting countries in monitoring and managing the global pandemic we are currently facing. There are numerous global resources that provide an array of data-sets used by professional institutions and independent and eager data enthusiasts to describe, predict and prescribe responses to the crisis.

But what does this all mean for our Data & AI leaders as they navigate the current COVID-19 landscape and plan for the journey ahead back to normality?

In the heightened face of data importance, Data & AI leaders play a critical role in this data-driven world and are responsible for shining the light, providing education and setting the standards for this new universal language in their respective organisations and broader communities. Whilst there are many more essential components for Data & AI leaders to consider, here I’ll focus on the following three areas:

  • Skills & Capabilities
  • Data Governance
  • Data Sharing

Increasing skills & capabilities in data literacy 

According to Gartner, research undertaken in the areas of critical success factors for failed data adoption projects, lack of skills and capabilities in data literacy was ranked in the top 10 of the responses. Gartner quotes that in 2020, only 50% of organisations will have enough AI and data literacy skills to achieve business value. “Data and analytics leaders must champion workforce data literacy as an enabler of digital business and treat information as a second language,” says Valerie Logan, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. 

To meet the demands of the data powered world, Data & AI leaders should focus on fostering the right talent and capabilities that will truly uplift organisations to be data-driven enterprises. As they say – an organisation is only as strong as its people.

Leaders should turn to mass scale up-skilling using open access massive open online courses (MOOC) offered through Coursera, Udacity, and edX that are associated with top tech companies and leading universities. This will drive the data literacy at the core of digital transformation. Through challenging times such as these, staff can be re-skilled and re-purposed across business domains and geographies very quickly.

Data governance fuels trust and integrity 

Gartner states that by 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly mention information as a critical enterprise asset and analytics as an essential competency.

This critical enterprise asset needs to be governed to provide trust and integrity. Surprisingly, many of today’s modern enterprises tend to lack the very basics in data management and governance. Many audits have uncovered gaps, with data being redundant, in siloes, having poor data quality and not using industry best practices for efficiency and scalability. The basics around addressing data governance need to be considered and met – some may be for regulatory compliance; some may be for dealing with clean and accurate data.

Data & AI leaders need to actively look at data strategies to align to overarching business strategy and cherry-pick governance initiatives that focus on people, processes and technology to drive trust and integrity. In the case of COVID-19, we don’t want for news readers to spawn false news founded on inaccurate data-sets or a visualisation enthusiast posting inaccurate COVID-19 admission cases heat-maps on LinkedIn.

Universal data access  

Organisations often pose a question: We have all this data, but now what? Can we enrich our data with outside data quickly and easily and without programming interfaces?

Data exchange between organisations and customers is not new but actively becomes easier to harness through various technologies to achieve data sharing at scale. Using leading database technologies, data professionals can easily query customer data, where access is granted in real-time, directly from an internal query editor. The same can apply to enriching Machine Learning models and training AI bots and applications. Open data projects and datasets make it possible to solve universal challenges daily. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple contribute to open-source projects aimed at making it easier to transfer data from one service to another and enrich this with AI.

Data leaders should encourage and adopt strategies for universal data sharing and publishing curated data into the broader data-ecosystems for the benefit of others that include connected enterprises and connected smart cities. In the case of COVID-19, connected countries can help make our health system smarter and enables cross-country relief efforts for impacted regions.

Don’t just talk about it

As a Data & AI leader in this current and uncertain climate, what keeps you awake at night? Do these points resonate with you, and do you have your own ambitions and a clear roadmap for going forward? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts and reflections – please get in touch.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn here and is republished with permission of the author.

This blog is part of the #ReimagineWork series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download our datasheets, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download our datasheets, click the banner #datareimagine

Posted by: Leo Kozhushnik, Data & AI Lead Strategist | 30 April 2020

Tags: Data Analytics, Data Insights, Dynamics 365, Customer insights, #datareimagine, COVID-19, #ReimagineWork

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