Home truth – data makes many organisations and leaders nervous! Used correctly, data can be a game-changer, adding value to customers’ lives and transforming businesses. But when data is mismanaged, the organisations responsible are splashed across the media for data and privacy breaches.
Recent industry reports identify ‘data gone wrong’ as the biggest risk factor for emerging digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous decision making.
However, with the right planning, a business can build information resilience to make embracing new technologies less risky, according to technology leadership expert from The University of Queensland, Professor Shazia Sadiq.
“When it comes to information management, many organisations are struggling with the ‘ingredients’ needed to create resilience – they’re hampered by inefficient data curation, not having the right data partnerships and nervous about a lack of algorithmic transparency,” says Shazia.
“We see the headlines of QR code check-in platforms selling customer’s data, data breaches spilling personal details publicly or AI gone rogue and producing bias, but with a strong information resilience plan you can greatly mitigate the risks and actually add value.”
“The encouraging news is there are many global companies turning data into meaningful information to transform customer and stakeholder experiences, developing new offerings and improving efficiencies and operations, all while doing it in a sustainable way.”
Despite some mistrust, technological transformation is full steam ahead, with 76 per cent of Australian businesses currently planning to increase investment in data and analytical capabilities, according to a Deloitte Access Economics report.
The contribution of digital technologies to Australia’s GDP is expected to reach $65 billion by 2023, and it is acknowledged that the workforce skills required to create value from data largely underpin this growth.
Professor Shazia Sadiq
Professor Shazia Sadiq
Teaching into UQ Business School’s online Master of Business Analytics program, Shazia says education in this space is important not just for data specialists but for leaders to understand how to strategically integrate and manage data across the organisation.
“Previously, too much power has been placed on third party providers to manage data and algorithms without a proper connection to understanding the needs of the end-user. This ‘data disconnect’ results in a poor return on investment and even data breaches.”
Professor Shazia Sadiq
“The key mindset for leaders to get the most out of their data investments is working towards ‘Purposeful’ use of information.”
“Leaders need to change the narrative from what can be done with data and information, to what should be done when developing their data-driven initiatives and solutions,” says Shazia.
Shazia shares the top five capabilities organisations need for information resilience based on their cutting-edge research conducted across a wide range of industries.
The top 5 capabilities businesses need for an information resilience plan
1. Responsible use of data assets
According to Shazia, failure to guarantee data is used for the right (or at least intended) purposes can have disastrous consequences for organisations. This concern also puts increasing pressure on both private and public sector organisations to ensure that their data is protected from misuse.
“Businesses need to ensure they obtain social licence for data and analytics projects from stakeholders and communities to pursue purposeful analytics,” says Shazia.
“Educating an organisation’s workforce and setting high standards when using data assets is vital for the responsible use of data.”
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2. Data curation at scale
“Data curation – organising and curating data from different sources – is a key step to ensure data being used to power data-driven applications is fit for purpose. At this phase, it’s important that data does not contain critical quality issues, including bias,” says Shazia.
Methods to achieve data curation at scale include machine learning, crowd-sourcing and human-in-the-loop techniques.
“Businesses need to ensure there is human oversight on all data curation processes, and that they understand the behaviour of their data workers and share best practice.”
3. Algorithmic transparency
As more decisions become automated and processed by algorithms, these processes become more opaque and less accountable, with an increased risk of profiling and discrimination.
Shazia highlights that businesses need to enable and promote interpretability, transparency and reproducibility into the design of algorithms. She notes, "leaders play an important part in communicating transparency to their specialists."
4. Trusted data partnerships
The ‘data deluge’ of the last decade has challenged well-established norms of data ownership and control, blurring the lines between data creation and acquisition. This has led to technological and organisational challenges in establishing data partnerships.
“Data provenance, governance and privacy are all essential areas for organisations to address when they look to strengthen data partnerships,” expresses Shazia.
5. Agility in value creation from data
“This capability is where the true gold lies in extracting valuable information if you have followed the previous steps to build information resilience, but insights must be continually implemented and cross-pollinated across the business,” notes Shazia.
“To extract value from data and create agility, businesses need to effectively utilise both people and processes.”
“Analytics teams and domain experts need to be structured for effective collaboration; while from a process perspective, organisations need to ensure they operate as a data-driven entity embedding analytics across all business processes and services.”
“It is essential to define and measure the value from your analytics efforts regularly too and refine according to the goalposts.”
Shazia believes that if organisations build in essential capabilities, they operate at a clear competitive advantage, not only deriving ROI from analytics projects, but helping to add real value to their stakeholders and business.
“By implementing capabilities to build information resilience, businesses can embrace data-driven transformation and advanced technologies such as AI to accelerate business growth, enhance the life of their customers and staff, and optimise and operations.”