Convergent Architecture: Advanced Analytics

Does your organization have a strategy in place that will guide it to digital maturity? In this edition of The Digital Change Podcast, learn how Innovation Platform develops an end-to-end response to the digital change that helps organizations lead in the digital transformation. This week hear more about the convergence of data and technology from CEO David Swank and VP Business Analyst, Trish McPeek. Read the full transcript below.

David: Welcome to another edition of The Digital Change Podcast. We're glad that you've joined us today. We actually have with us Trish McPeek, who is our Vice President Business Analyst. Good to have you with us today.


Trish: Thanks for having me on.


David: Trish is going to be joining us over the next several episodes as we've been talking about digital maturity. The next several what we call digital stacks are really very relevant to Trish’s expertise and experience. So, she's going to be collaborating with me on these next few episodes, especially as we begin to talk about this idea of a convergent architecture, single view and advanced analytics. Over the last several weeks, just to recap, we've talked about this digital stack solution offered by the Global Innovation Platform and how it can help organizations and communities really accelerate their digital maturity. We started out in week one, or the first episode, talking about the idea of having a digital strategy. Asking the questions about does your organization or community have a digital strategy? Do you understand your current health as it relates to digital? What are your current capabilities? How is digital going to change your operations? The second episode or second part of the stack was really talking about digital access. Where is the digital access points within your organization? Can you access the various data sources within your organization? How do you accelerate the digital adoption? Then last week, we really began to talk about what I would call the solutions to this digital maturity or applications. We talked extensively about a digital platform. We talked about it here as a digital platform as a service. Some organizations create their own platform. Many organizations we're seeing today are actually using a third-party platform and that’s what the Global Innovation Platform provides is a platform as a service. Software as a service. Infrastructure as a service. Internet of things as a service. A digital operations center as a service. You're going to hear us talk about those more explicitly in the coming weeks.


The digital platform is all about what's your business model going to be as you begin to think about how data is monetized and how data becomes a bigger part of your organization, as you become data driven. Today, we're going to begin to look at this fourth stack where we will talk about a convergent architecture or what we would refer to as a single view. Just imagine for a moment, if you could take all the data in your database sources or is out on the world wide web or is within your ecosystem and you would be able to see that in a single view. It's hard to imagine, but we talked about that here in the context of having the right data in front of the right people at the right time to make the right insights or the right decisions. We would even take that a further and call that accurate insights.


Trish: Yeah, David, what you described is basically the data journey. This whole idea of insights is actually a really important issue of data. It's the finished product.


David: Exactly, Trish, it is, and I think we really can't overemphasize this idea of insights. We talk about things like big data. We talk about advanced analytics and predictive analytics. This whole single view ideas is based on creating greater insights for people and for those decisions. I'm reminded, Trish, of the story that I think really drives this home and the story starts with asking this question: ‘who or what do you set your clock by?’ The story was about a man walking by a jewelry store every day. He would stop and set his watch by this big clock in the window. Then one day, the jeweler happened to be standing in his doorway and he greeted the man in front, and he asked him, “I see that you set your watch by my clock.” He was curious, “What kind of work do you do that demands such correct time each day?” The watchman shared with the jeweler, “I work at the plant down the street. My job is to blow the five o'clock whistle.” The jeweler responded, “But, you can't do that! I set my clock by your whistle!” As you think about that, how many times are we using data in our lives-- setting our clock, setting our insights, may be best said setting our decisions, setting our trajectory for our business based on the wrong information. We think it's the right information. Because it's a jewelry store. Because it has a clock. Because the time is there. The whistle blower actually creates his time by that. I really think, Trish, that this accentuates the issue at hand of how important it is to be looking at the right data and the right insights.


Trish: You know, it's interesting in that story what I picked up on is that it was a big clock in the window. So, maybe that's why the guy thought it was so important. Because it was big and shiny and that's what people kind of think. Maybe they go for the big and shiny instead of drilling down deep into their data and truly understanding it.


David: Well said. Sometimes we're kind of fooled by just our visual versus really in depth understanding.


Trish: Right. Hey, David, I actually have been listening to this podcast and I've heard you mentioned over the last several episodes the idea of disruption and the forces of destructive convergence. What do you really mean by disruptive convergence?


David: It's interesting, Trish. I think it is something we talk a lot about—disruption. We've been talking about digital disruption, but I do think a term that begins to set the stage or unpack what we're talking about today is this idea of disruptive convergence. Today, we see all the emergence of these technologies coming at us at the exponential rates, but what's fascinating is that these technologies are beginning to converge which really accelerates the whole digital experience. I was recently reading an article from EY, Ernst & Young consulting, and they defined disruptive convergence in this way: “Disruptive converging is driven by empowered customers, complex ecosystems, and innovative technologies-- all of which have big data at their core.” I think that's an interesting definition, Trish, as we began to think about this disruptive convergence. I really believe that what's so important for organizations today is to recognize that convergence and to begin to think about what it means to their organization. A quote from Capgemini consulting that I really like is: “Denial is a problem because it results in companies not classifying a disruption as a threat.” I don't know about you, but I think today we're seeing organizations who at some level are living in denial as to what the disruptive convergence looks like and what it means. We're seeing example after example of organizations, whether it's Google, Amazon, Facebook and I especially think in the area that we are talking about, this built environment, I look at organizations like Amazon with the Amazon Echo and Google with the Google Home and you see what they're doing in these environments. How they're really beginning to transform the built environment along with what's happening in the utility landscape. It's important that we don't really ignore that. That we really begin to understand that as organizations.


Trish: You talk about the right data to the right people at the right time and accurate insights and then that EY description that you said, it pulls out customers, ecosystems, innovation and data. So, I mean it's out there. It exactly ties to what everybody's saying and seeing.


David: That's right.


Trish: What are some responses we are actually seeing to this digital disruption?


David: Well that's the interesting question, because I do think that it's something, even as an organization, we need to start by asking what is our current response? I think organizations consistently do strategic planning, even maybe weekly planning, but you have to ask yourself, are we planning for the digital future and what's our response to that? I would just name some of these responses which I think are very obvious. One is ‘business as usual’. What's interesting about that, Trish, is I read a book recently called It Starts with One and one of the points that it makes as we think about starting with one which means really starting with ourselves, is understanding that we need to have an informed viewpoint. They called it “have an informed point of view”. I don't know how many people you will talk to that literally spend more time trying to get you to understand versus them trying to understand. The old saying is we need to spend more time trying to understand versus being understood. I think it is important in today's environment to understand very clearly that the only way we get past business as usual is to begin to try to understand what's happening. It's interesting to me that since 2000, 52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist. I think that says a lot about what's happening in the marketplace. John M. Beck, who's an Executive Chairman from Aecon Group, Canada which is a construction company said: “Looking at construction projects today, I don't see much difference in the execution of the work in comparison to 50 years ago.” When you look at that particular sector, the sector that we're really talking about today, how important is it to begin to look at that whole process differently. I would even say that in large part, the utility sector falls within that same kind of context. I think we have organizations who are casually thinking about new technologies.


Again, I mentioned EY earlier and one of the statements they made here recently is: “Digitization is a step change even greater than the Internet.” That's a bold statement. “Exponential technology advances, greater consumer power and increased competition mean all industries face the threat of commoditization.” I think there's some industries that feel that it's not going to happen in our sector. EY pointed out: “The winners will act now and build a strategic advantage that leaves their counterparts wondering what happened.” I think there are those who are seeking solutions and seeking support within their organization. I quoted Capgemini a little earlier and one of the statements they had is: “Incumbents need to constantly revisit their business model to ensure it's not outdated.” I think some of the things that are outdated structures is we used to do things linear and very siloed in organizations. One of the things, Trish, that we're talking about right now is integrating data and creating new means of looking at data, but when you look back, historically, at the organizations and how organizations were built, they were very siloed. Therefore, a lot of the systems and data sources became very siloed as well. I read an article recently and I'll use their language, and I hope people excuse me for using this language, but it had the headline “Silos suck. They inhibit collaboration and the ability to align a team behind a unified vision.” The bold statement was get rid of them. I think as we talk about single view, as we talk about the trajectory of an organization, I think in order to have a system of systems, we must break down silos. Truly bringing everything into single view means we're trying to become more efficient, more productive, more insightful. We're wanting to act and see more as a team and in large part, we're talking about changing the trajectory of our organization.


I'm reminded of a story of a certain courthouse in Ohio. It stood in a very unique location. They said that when raindrops fell on the north side of the building, it would go into Lake Ontario and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while those falling on the south side, go into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. At precisely the peak of the roof, just a gentle puff of wind can determine the destiny of many raindrops. It will make a difference of more than 2,000 miles as to their final destination. Think about this, by the smallest deed or choice we might put in motion influences that could change the course of our lives and the people we serve. As I read that story, I'm reminded of today when we look at data and we are looking at it in siloed ways and we're operating in siloed ways, how many organizations set their trajectory for the next year? For the next five years? For the next ten years? They're not able to take a look at all their data and all their insights. To look at it collectively. To look at it as a team and understand how important it is in setting the trajectory of that organization from here forward. I think there's people who are doing strategic planning. Who are beginning to look in depth at that and that's where I think, Trish, we come in-- these next three responses-- where people are really beginning to think about a digital transformation plan. I think there are people who are starting to think about implementing these convergent digital strategies and end-to-end solutions. I think the last response I would mention, Trish, is just this idea of people knowing they can be digital influencers. I see what's happening in our communities today and I know you subscribe to this. You've done some work in this space. We need people who are influencing not just their organizations, but the communities that they live in, in a greater way and are trying to find ways to use data to change the trajectory of their organization. I think the key thing I would say to our listeners today is what is your response because truly our response to anything dictates the outcomes of tomorrow and the next day and a year from now.


Trish: I agree. I actually just recently talked about this on my podcast, All Things Analytics, but on the BI [business intelligence] side of things and the adoption of BI within organizations. Kind of as you're speaking, it resembles that of if people really go with their instinct based off of their past and their experience, then it's hard to change their mindset because that's rooted so deep within them. But if they were just open minded to these new disruptions, because some people will say, ‘we do our strategy for next year and I use data to do my strategy, so why are you saying that I'm not you know living in this world?’ But they're only using a small part of their data. They haven't really got to dive in and use all their data. So that's where I think the mindset needs to switch. People do believe they're using their data, but truly they're not. So, if we begin looking at the fourth stack of the digital stack solution, what is the number one barrier to getting a convergent architecture or what we like to refer to as the single view?


David: Yeah, Trish, I think a lot of its the complexity. I think it was interesting. It was a good insight on your part relating how we feel like we're using data, but perhaps we're not. I think you and I have talked about it numerous times that sometimes that’s the difference between just business intelligence and we think we're really doing advanced analytics. No, what we're really doing is putting in front of ourselves the intelligence, which really doesn't lead us to the advanced analytic component. So, it is complex. It is challenging. Let's face it. Big data and the ability to use big data is not a simple task. It's one that can't be taken lightly and it's one that I really don't think we can fool ourselves. It's that old kind of little thought that just by hearing and listening we think that we're doing and we're really not. At the end of the day, it's about asking ourselves are we truly digging deep into data and understanding its capabilities? I think breaking through the complexity, the rewards that that can come from an organization are just really significant. Today, it is going to be the great divider between organizations and communities. We're seeing that as people talk especially about smart communities. I think if you live in rural communities that's a concern because we need to begin to be honest with ourselves and understand what this looks like. I know the other day we were meeting with an A&E firm that is fairly large and as we were talking through our solutions one of the things that they asked about was ‘how do we basically take a pause and restructure, reconsider the business were in?’ We recognized one our margins decreasing, competition's getting tighter and we're providing the same thing we provided years ago, so it is going to be important to do that. To answer your point about how important this is, Trish, in a recent strategy research, Accenture said that more than 80% of the CEOs they surveyed agreed that the ability to manage organizational complexity can enable them to rapidly respond to changing market conditions and the overall business environment. That's important. In other words, that means I’ve got to be willing to be intense. We know it's tough when you've been a monopolistic organization, or you've been able to ride the wave to all the sudden increase your intensity and to know that you're living in a more competitive world. They went on to say that 60% of these CEOs who addressed their enterprise complexity in an integrated business services approach do not believe that digital technologies will add further complexity to their organization. In other words, once they position themselves to address the complexity, they begin to simplify it. This is in contrast to the more than 30% of CEOs who have tried to address their enterprise complexity using traditional, functional or regional approaches. How or what we choose to solve today's problems can't be the same solutions as years ago because the outcomes will be the same.


Trish: David, I was reading recently and there was a quote from Allison Kennedy with Accenture. She said, “Too many companies see ‘innovation’ as something abstract from solving real problems and creating real value. As a result, too much time and investment is spent on efforts at the periphery that have no link to value and the opportunity to create true change within companies is missed once again.” Now this really excites me because what I love about being here at Global Innovation Platform is that our solutions are taking the complex things and making them achievable for any organization. It doesn't matter if they're big or small. I know we're needing to probably wrap up and we're running short on time. Can we spend the remaining time talking about the single view that takes the complex and makes it a real solution?


David: You bet. I agree with you, Trish. I think we've got a great team and you're one of them. Knowing every day that one of the exciting things we get to work on is how to take the complex and make it simple and we got some great tools to do that. We talked about single view and really began to kind of define that. We started the podcast in talking about the single view from the idea of right data, right people, right time, right decision and right insights. So, when we think about the single view solution, I'm going to use those statements or terms to define this idea of single view. First of all, when we think about right data, we’re talking about the contextual data that we need to make sound decisions, sound investments. I think about how so often we are using only a piece of the formula, largely due to the fact that's all we have access to. It is about linking information to deliver new relationship insights. Relationships between data. Making connections across any data source, whether they're inside or outside your organization. Can you imagine having the ability to look at a single view and see every data source within your own systems pulled into a single system and also to pull data from the world wide web and begin to relate that? That'd be pretty powerful. Don't you think, Trish?


Trish: It definitely gives you the insights that you've never had before.

David: Then to have people like yourself, who are data scientists. Who can take that data and really begin to turn that into advanced analytics. Enhancing traditional data with that this idea of a vital contextual information including location, demographics, and we could go on and on. Once you have the right data, that's not the end of the story. That single view then is how do we put in front of the right people? Because everyone looks at it differently. I know, Trish, we talked about the right people, and you might expand on this. Even as you look at the hierarchy of an organization, how important is it from C- suite down to what you'd call the front line?


Trish: Oh man, it’s very important and it's actually one of the biggest struggles that analysts or anyone on a BI team deals with. When we start our journey, we have to go to those who have the data that utilize the data and we kind of study them and study what they're doing. Then we go up to the executives and we talk to them and see what they want to see, and we create it. I'm going to say 90% of the time, the people that we got the data from that live in the data, they don't believe that their dashboards are telling them anything because it's not what they look at. But it's exactly what the executives want to look at. So, that context of where you live within the organization and what's important to you is such a big role. Within the organization, you have your managers and your directors, then your C-suite and your executive team. They all get different things and sometimes they don't even understand why the other person is looking at something different.


David: That's a great point and good insight. It’s so true that data governance from a standpoint it's like governing an organization. Everybody has their role and data plays the same part. The third piece of this this single view would be the right time. Putting the data in front of people at the right time. Whether that be data that relates to real time data from infrastructure to know if something's about to break or something needs to be maintained. Having the ability to look at that in a geographical or a geo space database and looking at data in terms of predictive analytics. Being able to look at it in a real-time way that allows us to predict a particular action or a particular event. Then fourthly, when you think about the single view, now I have this ability to see the right data. I have the ability to put it in front of the right people. I had the ability to put it in front of people at the right time. Now I can really begin to think about it from the right decision. The integration of business processes and workflows is so important because our organizations are made up of business processes and workflows. What this ultimately leads to, Trish, is this idea that then we get to accurate insights. As we wrap up, and I'm going to get some last comments from you too, Trish, but when we talk about the digital solution stack, on a recap of our moment because I think again you can't bypass any one of these steps, it is so important that you think about your digital strategy. It is significant that we think about digital access. Having access to data sources. Who's going to have access to the data? Putting together a digital platform, a model that really serves as a catalyst and as a springboard for this next journey. Then today, as we talk about this single view, it really is about the ability to access what we call the iEcoNet. We call our platform the iEcoNet because it is about intelligent ecosystem and global networking. Any thoughts, Trish, you have? Coming in we talked about iEcoNet. You've been working on this very aggressively with the team as well, but what’s the importance of having this iEcoNet and its relationship to the single view?


Trish: Yeah, I would say my number one thought is you and I have been working in this type of industry and really trying to figure out this whole digital transformation and what it consists of and what's the best way to help guide others for some years now-- I mean you a lot longer than I have-- but it's definitely been something that I've been researching for a few years. When I'm thinking of our listeners and sometimes stuff like this can be so complex that they're like ‘I don't even know where to begin’. Or like I said, they think that they're actually doing it and that's what I love about the iEcoNet. The first step is we want to see where you are. We can meet you exactly where you are. We don't want you to go from not even having data to doing predictive modeling. That's not the process. That's not how we get there. We literally look at where you are. We just take a look as simple as what systems are you using? What data is coming out of those systems? Even, what are the cost of those systems? We want to actually help you embrace and enhance the systems you're already using. So, I think that's my favorite thing about the iEcoNet is that it allows us to get on their level and take it slow because this is a monster. This is really hard for a lot of people to understand. I want to let everybody know that even though you might not understand some of the words we're saying, and we try to break it down, that's what the iEcoNet represents to me. Between them and us, we can work together and collaborate in a way they understand. They get to go on this journey for their organization, but we meet them where they're at.


David: Great point. I think the whole basis of the iEcoNet is about connecting people, connecting devices, connecting data, connecting infrastructure assets. I would wrap up today by sharing with you a recent article by Accenture wrote about what, in essence, I think is the single view or an architecture we're talking about means. They talk about being hyper relevant, network powered, technology propelled, talent rich, data driven, inclusive, asset smart. Those terms those statements really resonate with me, Trish, because I think that's what this digital journey is all about. How do we become hyper relevant with our customers and employees? How do we become network powered in a digital world? Where we can begin to really create a strong network? How do we propel technologies? How do we begin to really attract new talents and skills? I think we both would agree that today if you as an organization or an opposition in the digital environment, when we're living among digital natives, how important it is if you're going to attract that talent to actually be doing the things that the talent and skills are looking for. To be a data-driven organization. To be an organization that's not siloed. That is inclusive. I can't emphasize that enough. If anything that I believe needs to start today at the top, it’s that we've got to break down silos and create a more inclusive environment. Then, of course, this idea of being asset smart. Asset smart not just with our own assets, but understanding assets are converging. Trish, it has been great to have you here today. Next week, we are going to be talking about a subject that, Trish, is probably the nearest to your heart. We're going to talk about digital optimization. Again, I'm glad to have you as a part of the next couple episodes because I know that's an area that you were working on extensively over the last several years. As Global Innovation Platform is beginning to look at implementing a digital operation center, where we really start talking about having data scientists look at data and unpack data. I think that's going to be a great show. So, looking forward to having you back next week and we'll be talking about digital optimization-- the last layer of the five-part digital stack.


For questions or comments about today’s episode or other topics related to the digital transformation, contact Innovation Platform at digitalchange@ieconet.org or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn @IPSmartBuzz. To listen to all past and future episodes from any device, anywhere, subscribe to our channel on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify.