Advanced Practices Council members – senior technology and data executives across industries – gathered virtually in June to continue learning from exemplary researchers and practitioners (including themselves) on topics they voted as high priority for their future success.
The theme of the meeting was accelerating digital business transformation while achieving high business results.
ORGANIZING FOR INNOVATION AND EXECUTION
Dr. Suraj Srinivasan of the Harvard Business School answered the question, “How can you design an organization for both efficiency and innovation?” He used the Harvard Business School case that describes C3.ai, a company founded in 2009 by Tom Siebel (founder of Siebel Systems), to illustrate an answer.
C3.ai pivoted from (1) developing and selling clean technology software that could help companies manage their carbon footprint to (2) helping utility customers leverage big data to manage the smart grid to (3) offering three software products (enterprise data lake, platform, and SaaS applications) that help customer IT developers to easily design complex applications quickly and economically. During these pivots, C3.ai refined its strategy regularly to reflect opportunities and kept its strategy front and center (e.g., alliance partners it chooses, top talent it hires, companies it will work for).
Executives at C3.ai pay close attention to those critical performance variables that truly drive customer success and ROI:
- Pick the right problems and customers
- Ensure they have the right people that can deliver
- Train customers
- Build robust technology platforms
- Build network of partners
C3.ai is run professionally and efficiently with discipline. Meetings are highly structured. Tom focuses on profitability and cash flow, formal plans, goals, accountability, and objectives for next four quarters that cascade down the organization. Moreover, Tom doesn’t delay in dealing with people problems.
Over time, C3.ai has created a network of alliance partners who help run Centers of Excellence, provide customer training, and build customer-focused applications on its C3 platform.
Dr. Lynda Applegate of the Harvard Business School addressed the question, “How can organizations accelerate innovation and reinvent themselves to succeed in the digital world?” She used the Harvard Business School case on Collibra, a company founded in 2008, to address the question.
Collibra began as a business glossary company for financial services firms. Over time, companies beyond financial services that acquired large amounts of data through multiple channels often stored the data in a data warehouse and later in data lakes containing not only structured data but unstructured data as well. Metadata management became more critical and encompassed glossaries, data lineage tools, and data management tools that dictated who could access particular pieces of data and its acceptable uses.
Collibra’s product offerings expanded to address the market need. It offered the Collibra Data Governance Center – a dashboard that interacted with a company’s data sources and the software it used to store and manage its data. In essence, Collibra became a data governance company.
As Collibra attempted to sell its offering, it discovered that the real pain in the market was not limited to the issue of defining data but, instead, was fundamentally linked to how business leaders and operating teams used data to make decisions and take actions as they attempted to execute strategy, manage their businesses, and complete their daily work. Collibra’s leadership team transformed their offerings from a collection of data management tools into a data governance platform. They offered their Data Governance Center as a SaaS offering on a public cloud using an approach similar to what retailers, shippers, consumers, advertisers, and other ecosystem players used when buying and selling on Amazon.
Collibra then launched its online Data Citizens community where people could post and answer questions about Collibra’s growing suite of products.
In 2019 Collibra became a data intelligence company. It recognized that managers want everyone in their company to have access to the right data assets so that they can make decisions based on the derived collective intelligence. Every data citizen can volunteer to collaborate on virtually any data project.
Organizations, like Collibra, can innovate through various strategies:
- Expand markets served (Collibra went beyond financial services)
- Expand product/service offerings (from data glossary to data governance to data intelligence capabilities; from products to platform)
- Anticipate the future and transform.
The emerging 21st century organizational model is moving away from more hierarchy and centralization to more intelligent digital partnership ecosystems to support lean, agile, networked way of working.
Not only is Collibra a role model of developing ecosystem partnerships, but its new products address decentralization within corporations (i.e., making data assets available to every data citizen in the corporation.
LEADING IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Dr. Jennifer Jordan of IMD in Switzerland addressed the question, “What behaviors must leaders demonstrate to be successful in the digital world?”
Jennifer and her colleagues surveyed senior business leaders and conducted interviews with executives affected by digital disruption. They identified 7 behaviors that seem to be on the opposite end of the continuum from behaviors demonstrated in the traditional world. These 7 behaviors are essential given the rapid pace of change, the new market disruptors, and the increasing teamwork across boundaries: the listener (vs. the teller), the analyst (vs. the intuitionist), the accelerator (vs. the perfectionist), the adaptor (vs. the constant), the visionary (vs. the tactician), the power sharer (vs. the power holder), and the prospector (vs. the miner).
How can a leader decide which behavior (new vs. traditional) is appropriate in a given situation? Jennifer suggested that a leader’s awareness and experience are essential as well as ambidexterity to navigate between the two worlds.