Constant Innovation – Data Integration.
I have blogged repeatedly about Canada’s productivity woes and the lack of digital literacy amongst Canadian business decision makers. Productivity that often spoken about topic that everyone pays lip service to. I was very interested to hear, the other morning, an interview with Roger Martin, Chairman, of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity. The Institute on June 1st released its ninth annual report. The premise of the report was that our productivity gap is an innovation gap.
This is an interesting idea and one I agree with completely. It is one that I think deserves wide press. If we continue to do things as we always have done and we don’t look at ways of innovating and improving our business processes how can we address productivity, which ultimately drives prosperity? So what is productivity ? Productivity is our output of goods and services and how efficiently we use resources to generate that output. A key economic indicator, a driver of our economy and ultimately our standard of living. It’s very simple the more we can produce more efficiently and faster the more prosperous we become. In the developing world cheap labour drives output, in the western world innovation, and creativity should drive higher levels of output resulting in a higher standard of living. In Canada we have become too comfortable and complacent.
Constant innovation is the term the report uses to describe what businesses should be doing to increase productivity and affect prosperity. The problem, and the report talks to the issue, is that if you don’t understand how innovation can make your business better how can you embrace innovation. In my mind, and I was really glad to see the report target this, it all starts with our education system. If we graduate kids from school who have a limited world view, can’t read and write effectively and can’t think outside the box how on earth are we going to produce innovative business leaders who will embrace innovation. Kids absolutely need to be exposed to far more than they see in the very limited world of the classroom. We can play catch up at the college and university level, which I think is essential as a stop gap, but the results will be less than we expect if we don’t address the core issue. Education is expensive but the cost of not investing in a solid education system is much, much higher.
If you take our field as an example.
A well designed and executed middle ware solution can enhance data flow through an organization, but only if a company embraces data as a strategic asset. How many companies have actually looked at data flow through their organizations and attempted to rationalize those flows to make them more efficient? Integrating data allows employees to work at things that actually add value to an organization rather than pounding away at a keyboard entering data. I recently did a poll on LinkedIn where I asked how many people had done a 360 of data flow in and out of their organizations. The results are dumbfounding – half way through the poll’s life span I have 3 responses! That tells me it’s not even on people’s radar.
Data integration is one example of a very simple way to enhance productivity. If you are able to enhance productivity by getting rid of costly repetitive data entry steps then those people are freed up to add value to the business. Using data in innovative ways is another. Imagine if you could see trends in data before your accounting system spat out the quarterly report? Combine data visualization with a real time marketing program on social media to target changes in that data and imagine the results. Once you have a flexible middleware solution you can extract data and use that data in innovative ways to enhance the business.
Businesses today are dealing with increasingly large volumes of data coming in and going out. When I was at Liaison’s Convergence 2011 conference the CIO of The Weather Channel revealed that they deal with over 1 terabyte of data on a monthly basis and its growing. You just can’t respond in the old way with those sorts of data volumes. You need to innovate and innovation needs creativity along with flexible tools. Is your company up to the challenge?