“Lessons from the Sentient Enterprise” is a series of posts timed around the publication of The Sentient Enterprise, a new book on big data analytics by Oliver Ratzesberger and Mohan Sawhney. Each post in the series highlights a major theme covered in book and at executive workshops being held in conjunction with its upcoming release by Wiley Publishers.
Analytics is progressing so quickly that the future is less about consulting a crystal ball than simply reviewing the latest predictions from Gartner, Forrester and other industry analysts. I’ve even done my own forecasting on where analytics and artificial intelligence are taking us in the years to come. In writing The Sentient Enterprise, however, Kellogg School of Management professor Mohan Sawhney and I saw an additional opportunity to get predictions from the more than dozen top analytics executives we interviewed for the book.
Though we talked with each about different parts of the journey toward enterprise-wide “sentience” – including Dell’s Virtual Data Mart for global manufacturing data, Siemens Mobility’s use of a Collaborative Ideation Platform for train maintenance and Wells Fargo’s companywide deployment of an Analytical Application Platform – there’s one question we made sure to ask everyone: Where is analytics headed over the next ten years? We then compiled their predictions in a special “Looking to the Future” section of the book. By way of sharing a few highlights, here are three big predictions that stood out in our series of interviews:
Preventing vs. Fixing Problems
More than one executive flagged the CRM trend away from problem solving, and toward problem prevention. “For me, the future is about getting to a stage where, before customers know there’s a problem or issue, we will be able to proactively offer to meet their needs,” said Grace Hwang, executive director for business intelligence and advanced analytics at Verizon Wireless. “Tomorrow is about being proactive to the point where both the company and the customer stay ahead of the curve… avoiding surprises or problems before they happen.”
“The new world is not going to be a big giant call center waiting for people to call and report problems,” echoed Dell Vice President for Enterprise Services Jennifer Felch. “We’ll be asking ourselves fewer questions like ‘How fast was my response to the call?’ or ‘How quickly did I resolve the issue?’ That’s the legacy world. In the new world, you’re looking at ‘Why didn’t I stop that problem before it started?’…. Instead of measuring problems, we’re measuring success.”
Expanding Collaboration Beyond the Company Walls
Other executives foresee an expansion of seamless data sharing to a broader community that will include customers, vendors, supplier groups and other partners. Over the next decade, for instance, Siemens Mobility plans to expand its version of a Collaborative Ideation Platform for customers of its locomotives and rail infrastructure. “From our end we can add engineering understanding to clarify insights … From their end, customers provide information on how they run their operations,” Siemens Director of Data Services Gerhard Kress told us. “Together, we’re jointly creating something that’s much bigger than what any of us could do on our own.”
“I think in the not too distant future, we’ll start to see organizations like ours address the extended enterprise, not just the internal enterprise,” added General Motors Director of Big Data Infrastructure and Engineering Brett Vermette. “As we see organizations become more agile and data-driven themselves, a further frontier will offer more seamless coordination more broadly with their larger environment … That’s another order of magnitude of complexity that goes beyond just the enterprise itself.”
More Autonomous Decisioning
Decision support and fully-automated decisioning are capabilities we discuss in The Sentient Enterprise that will continue to mature. Over the next decade, Dell’s Jennifer Felch predicts that “better capabilities to automate routine tasks and decisions will free up more people and resources (for) opportunities and growth versus problems and troubleshooting.” Meanwhile, Volvo Senior Director of Business Analytics Jan Wassen forecasts tremendous progress in the automation that goes into self-driving cars.
“All the testing and problem solving that’s happening today will get us to the point where autonomous drive will be an ordinary reality, simply a fact of life,” Jan predicted.
“In fact, I believe the day will come when we’re not allowed to drive ourselves any longer. Perhaps not every road, but for some major roads, you’ll see autonomous drive as a requirement.”
Beyond these particular predictions, an overall consensus that emerged among our interviewees is summarized nicely by something told to us by A. Charles Thomas. We interviewed him while he was chief data officer at Wells Fargo, before he left to join General Motors in that same role. “Over time, you’ll see more situations and contexts where access and curiosity around data are making a difference,” he said. “I ultimately consider the chief data officer’s charter to be anywhere we can inform business decisions at scale, and I think the future will show how that footprint expands into more and more lines of business.”