Chet Kapoor, Chairman & CEO at DataStax.
I joined DataStax as the chairman and CEO in October 2019. One of the best parts of this role, and all my previous roles, has been spending time getting to know some of the brightest tech leaders from global enterprises.
Building data-driven enterprises is at the forefront of innovation. Scaling multibillion-dollar businesses is no small feat in any year, and 2020 has been especially unique. As I reflected on interactions with global CIOs and tech leaders, a few learnings jumped out at me.
1. Become a data-driven enterprise — starting now.
Building innovative and scalable business models is not easy. Many of those who are succeeding in 2020 were already ahead when it came to their data and digital strategies. That being said, 2020 has forced every leader to evaluate their approach, innovate, and accelerate their digital and data transformation.
FedEx has been on the leading edge of technology for quite some time as a data-driven enterprise, but its journey continues to evolve. During a recent interview with CIO Rob Carter on my Inspired Execution podcast, Carter asked, “In this connected world and all the possibilities that it brings with it, how do we activate the data at a more macro level?”
The lesson here is that the companies that are going to dominate — no matter what industry they’re in — are going to create new, innovative business models and value propositions that are based on data. Innovate, execute and drive forward as quickly as you can to become a data-driven enterprise.
2. Be ready to execute thoughtfully with speed.
The world can change at any moment. Enterprises need to be ready to execute thoughtfully and with speed. This means fast decision-making, being willing to fail and iterate, and employing a robust development process. To enable these behaviors, it’s critical to have underlying technology that is agile, meaning API-driven, cloud-based and built on modern technologies.
Home Depot was already well on its digital transformation journey when Covid-19 required it to accelerate its mobile, curbside and delivery capabilities. As SVP of information technology Fahim Siddiqui explained on my podcast, “We saw an immense uptake in our online business when the challenges of Covid-19 hit us. At one point, we started seeing Black Friday types of volumes every given day, and that had everything to do with having the people, process and technology basis to scale out and really provide unparalleled service.”
Being able to react comes down to people, process and technology. Not only can it streamline decision-making, but companies need to be willing to test and learn and, most importantly, execute from one agile cycle to the next. Together, these ingredients can allow an enterprise to scale and respond quickly.
3. Empower people on the front lines to be the voice of the customer.
Successful leaders are always focused on their customers. They make data and customer experience the driving force of their success. Sometimes, however, they get it wrong.
For example, T-Mobile CIO Cody Sanford explained on our Accelerate series that, despite leadership’s laser focus on net promoter scores and front-line data, there have been times when they were “dead wrong” about what was truly important to the consumer. To combat this, the company created a team of professionals embedded in its customer care and product development teams. With this approach, the company is able to catch customer trends and issues while there is still time to impact decisions.
It’s incredibly important for everyone in your organization to partner with customers. When everyone obsesses over users and enterprises (customers), they are able to work together to make strategic decisions and create meaningful products that scale to make them successful.
4. Open-source software is here to stay.
Open-source software fuels both technical and business innovation and has become the flywheel for momentum. Open-source software can enable and encourage collaboration, grow adoption with open code and improve reliability as more developers and contributors participate.
Observable co-founder and CEO Melody Meckfessel pointed out on Accelerate that today’s software is either open source or built on top of open source, adding that “the open-source way of developing is here to stay … it means that we’re more dependent on code written by other people, and we’re also more likely to share code that we’ve written.”
If you haven’t taken steps toward open source, I believe now is the time. Not only can it make your enterprise more efficient, but it can also open up new opportunities to extend your talent base.
5. Remember that data transformation is a continuous journey.
No matter where you are in your journey, you’re on a mission to change the world. You must earn that right and work for it every day:
• Obsess over and partner with your customers.
• Remain a user of your own product(s).
• Train relentlessly.
• Focus on metrics that drive action.
Banco Santander chief platform officer Aiaz Kazi mentioned on my podcast that the key for him and his team when moving from traditional on-premises to a cloud-native, mobile-first and AI-enabled platform was delivering in small slices — launching and learning with each one so as to mitigate risk — and that during the process, the concept of failing fast is OK.
We live in a data-driven world, and the necessity of adopting data and cloud technologies is critical to staying alive.
In future posts, I’ll cover more on how leaders can begin their journey toward becoming data-driven — the challenges, lessons learned and technologies that can help on your journey to being a data-driven enterprise.
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