Digital Transformation and the New Prisoner’s Dilemma
Taylor Culver

Taylor Culver

Jul 2020

Digital Transformation and the New Prisoner’s Dilemma

This may be a little bleak, but the two prisoners in the world of data are the business and the respective data teams. Whether they like it or not, they need each other to survive and thrive. If they collaborate, digital transformation is a regular everyday occurrence. If they choose to compete the organization incurs gridlock. If the data leader “rats” out the business by pursuing their own agenda you get a science project and unadopted solutions. If the business follows the same rationale, you get data silos. The diagram below illustrates the outcomes of this organic conflict.

Data is the New...Prisoner’s Dilemma?

Data is an asset - nope. Data is a commodity or “oil” - sorry. Data is, well let’s be honest, sometimes more trouble than its seemingly worth. 

Firstly, data is not an asset. Consult the GASB or FASB (General & Financial Accounting Standards Board) and you will quickly see data doesn’t show up on the balance sheet. As for oil, you don’t see cars lining up to fill up their tanks with SQL queries. If anything, keeping the car analogy going, data is exhaust - an output from the engine offering little to no value back to the mechanism that produced it absent intervention. So what is data...well it’s a dilemma for most.


What is The Prisoner’s Dilemma?

For those of you who took PSYCH 101 read on. Otherwise, when two prisoners are suspected of committing a crime that they in fact committed with no witnesses, there is no way to convict them unless one effectively “rats” on the other. The police encourage the prisoners to confess by offering them a reward for ratting the other person out. Psychologically speaking, the reward is greatest to the individual for ratting out their co-conspirator while their co-conspirator remains silent. However, if both prisoners rat each other out they will both go to prison. This is the prisoner's dilemma. The only benefit to the collective would be if both prisoners kept their mouths shut and were let go because there isn’t enough evidence to convict either of them. Who has the courage to take that risk? How much do you trust the other person to act in their self interest?


How Does This Relate to Data?

This may be a little bleak, but the two prisoners in the world of data are the business and the respective data teams. Whether they like it or not, they need each other to survive and thrive. If they collaborate, digital transformation is a regular everyday occurrence. If they choose to compete the organization incurs gridlock. If the data leader “rats” out the business by pursuing their own agenda you get a science project and unadopted solutions. If the business follows the same rationale, you get data silos. The diagram below illustrates the outcomes of this organic conflict.

How Does This Impact Your Organization? 

This may seem a little abstract and theoretical, but it’s not. Organizations where the business and data teams are not effectively collaborating are working backwards. Time is being wasted, employees are disengaging, shadow processes begin to emerge, and productivity begins to drop. Furthermore, data teams that are strong arming the business are likely making significant investments that are going unused or adopting inserting a low value recurring cost into the organizations profit margin. Data silos are just as toxic for organizations. Trench warfare between departments between data silos leads to poor data governance, parallel processes, poor information sharing, and data fatigue.


How Do You Change It?

Not all is lost. You don’t need to shut the operation down. The reality is, having good data is like health. A simple metric and a pinch of self discipline will sort the issue out.

  1. Set Goals That Have Clear Business Impact: Teams that aren’t collaborating do not share the same goals. It is the responsibility of the data leader to establish clear goals that unite the business and data teams and obtain executive sponsorship.
  2. Ensure End User Engagement: If you don’t know who will be using what you’re building intimately, stop. All too often do we rush to solutions because it’s easier than understanding the problem. All too often are smart solutions delivered on time in a way that doesn’t solve the actual underlying problem.
  3. Build a Cross Functional Team With a Shared Responsibility of Attaining #1 & #2 Within a Timeframe: If another team is taking initiative with data, point other departments to their success. Establish a cross functional team that shares a common technology architecture to drive business outcomes with data.

As you can see, data can be quite the dilemma. Oftentimes the problems seem pretty abstract, but the reality is that the root cause is oftentimes people and teams. Understanding if the data or business is driving your data initiatives at your organization is step one. Observing the actions and behavior that occurs between both parties is step two. Once you understand who’s leading the way empower them to do so, but ensure collaboration under common goals. It’s not difficult to right size a data initiatives it just takes organizational focus, executive sponsorship, and a little bit of time.

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Organizations We Have Helped

We pride ourselves on driving tangible business value out of data for our clients. Whether it's starting with you on the ground floor, or jumping into the deep end of your initiative we help clients through developing and honing meaningful data strategies with business impact, along with the implementation of forward thinking data products & data analytics solutions.

Innovative Insurance Brokerage

Our client was facing issues with scale and innovation. They had a core business that was growing and a team of key players but sought incremental growth opportunities.

Seeing a need to drive innovation and technology enabled scale within their services business. Our client set out to build a data-driven platform to automate and align all parties involved in their process to a common platform.

Client built and designed data centric platform and began the process of taking to market with their existing customer base.

World's Largest Brewer of Beer

When it came to data strategy, management, and execution, our client was looking for a second set of eyes. Although the client was aware of the problem, they couldn’t close the gap with technology alone. They lacked an actionable playbook and strategy to operationalize their data ambitions.

Build out executive level playbook to address data opportunities and risks, while aligning to organizational data governance committee to drive forward cross-functional data initiatives.

Data silos were broken down leading to operational changes in enhancing business systems and requesting reports. Projects came with significant P&L impact driving incremental inertia into their data strategy plan.

Technology Enabled Services Firm

With disparate data sources for operational, financial, and customer data, all with different structures and content, executives, team leaders and individual contributors were all operating on different systems and completely misaligned.

Our goal was to ensure we developed a customized, unique solution to improve their services, business intelligence, and their value for internal and external customers.

After taking the time to understand the core data problems of the client beneath the technology and developing the customized solutions to meet their complex challenges, they began to notice results. As a result of our partnership, they saw improved information access, streamlined reporting and an increase in the overall quality of the data of the organization.

Largest US-based Beauty Retailer

Our client was working to offset the risks associated with CCPA & GDPR by documenting and storing all organizational knowledge.

Design business oriented data definitions and map to data in physical systems.

Single repository for all data definitions along with accompanying playbook to drive greater engagement.

What Our Customer's Internal Stakeholders Really Care About

Every company has data. Not every company has a Chief Data Officer. Data oftentimes is a part time job for many. We oftentimes see this manifest differently depending on the role we're working with. You are heard, and we want to hear from you!

Executive Leaders

Drive Competitive Advantage With Data

Allow your data to give you the brilliant insights to need to get ahead of the competition. How you handle your daily operations to your marketing efforts – every piece of data gives you the ultimate competitive advantage.

Clear Organizational Data Strategy

As an executive leader, it’s all about the big picture. Your data strategy must be consistent across the organization to ensure every department is aligned, working towards the same goal and accessing unified data.

Capture Real Data Opportunities

All to often do projects get escalated with high costs and purposeless urgency. "Didn't we just do something like this?" Cut through the noise, get to the facts.

Integrate Data into Every Part of Customer Journey

As you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, how is their experience? Are you sending them outdated, stale, and clunky information without personalization or relevance? Can they consume your data in new or interesting ways?

Direct Data Revenue Attribution

Your data can provide deep insights to better understanding your current and unseen future streams of revenue.

Data Leaders

Culivate Single Source of Truth

Aside from it being incredibly inefficient, sifting through multiple datasets trying to uncover which data is accurate, real, and true causes confusion and frustration, with the potential to have serious internal and external consequences.

Drive Business Ownership of Data

The question is simple – who owns your data? If you don't know, it's probably you. This is a problem.

Improve Data Governance

How you organize your data is much more than just a classification system – it’s the ability to provide quick, timely across to make for happier customers, leaders and fellow colleagues.

Have Exceptional Data Quality

Every piece of data you collect starts to tell a story. Perhaps it’s about a customer’s unique preferences, or maybe it’s related to product performance.

Minimize Data Related Redundancy

How many tools, teams and databases contain or process the same information for the same customer?

Business Leaders

Have Powerful Business Insights

As you uncover each piece of information and patterns emerge, it starts to tell a story. Every department has the ability to rapidly transform and innovate – and it begins with the intelligence and analysis of your data.

Increased Team Efficiency

Instead of having haphazard departmental analyses throughout your organization, take ownership for the data you truly need and want.

Data Availability and Transparency

Each company has their own objectives and key results for success – and they often require multiple datasets to get there. This will help to create a culture where data-informed decision making is the norm.

Better User Experience

Depending on the specific function of your department, it’s all about the user experience (both internal and external). To keep your employees and retain your clients, you must think about offering the best user experience possible – starting with your data.

Remove Perceived Roadblocks

As a department leader,it can feel incredibly burdensome to get even the simplest of tasks done. From sending out a marketing email to generating a customer report, sometimes what seems like it should take a few minutes turns into a few months.

Dozens of customers have trusted us to identify and capture millions of dollars of waste due to poorly managed data.

Anheuser Busch InBev Kraft-Heinz Accurate Background ThoughtSpot Keller Lenkner SJV Data Solutions Ulta Beauty Williams Lea M&A Insurance Solutions