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How can data & analytics help established businesses compete in the 21st Century?

How data & analytics can help businesses compete

Following our latest Data and Analytics Roundtable dinner, we outline the three core areas of consideration when embarking on a programme of data-driven change that arose from our discussions. 

Image of Nick Whitfield

Partner, Management Consulting

KPMG in the UK


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In 2018 change is on the agenda and disruption is one of the biggest threats to established businesses. These businesses however can use one of their greatest resources – their data – to implement changes that will enable them to fight back against newer competition… and win. At our most recent Data and Analytics Roundtable event, the conversation examined this topic at length. We’ve distilled some of the learnings from our speakers and guests into three core areas for consideration when embarking on a programme of data-driven change.

1. How to pick the right battles

There are two key aspects to achieving success when introducing a data-led change into your organisation.

  • Operational factors: Including everything from divisional silos through to the tools and technology you use
  • Cultural factors: The importance of shifting attitudes and mindsets so people buy-in to what you’re doing

As clients have told us in the past, ‘analysing your data means you become less dependent on instinct, assumption and habit. Some people will be perfectly happy with this new approach. Even though the result might not be perfect, they’ll see it’s an improvement. However, there will be those who can’t see beyond any imperfections and will simply refuse to engage.’

So, how should you tackle that kind of resistance?

Don’t target your initial efforts at a highly visible, high-value process. You’ll face a lot of push-back from the many stakeholders who are invested in it.

Instead, find something that’s less contentious. This will give you the chance to demonstrate the benefits of evidence-based decisions, automation and digital tools without ruffling too many feathers.

Why not consider…

Simpler, internal examples such as employee care analytics and self-service HR functions:

  • Empower people with digital tools
  • Create your own test environment
  • Engage consistently with your users to gather feedback, and make improvements as you drive better user adoption


2. Reskilling at the speed you can handle

Encouraging new ways of working calls for people to embrace ideas that simply didn’t exist a generation ago.

Most organisations contain vast numbers of complicated spreadsheets. If you’re the person who spent years building and maintaining one of these spreadsheets you might not welcome the imposition of a new analytics tool that will replace them. Also, some people have spent years honing their craft and have invested a great deal of themselves into it along the way. They don’t consider what they do to be transactional.

If you want to change processes, you need to change people too. But don’t expect everyone to reskill at the speed you’d prefer; some will struggle. You can’t force people to change faster than their capability to change, so find ways to avoid that becoming a problem for you and a source of anxiety for them.

Why not consider… 

Giving people things to do that represent small changes:

  • Get them used to doing things in new ways, this will help them to think in new ways too
  • Develop a path for people to learn new skills and gradually adapt their outlook and mindset.


3. Traditional technology thinking can be the enemy of progress

In an agile business, there is an emphasis on ways of working that look like barely controlled chaos to many traditional businesses. But the following is just a shift in focus:

  • Iterative improvements: A minimal viable product means you get to market quickly and are ready to learn from real-time user feedback.
  • Design thinking: Focus on the solutions to the problems your users (or prospective users) will face at every stage of development and refinement.

The agile route can be the opposite of how many organisations are used to working. The idea of putting something unfinished into the hands of customers would seem like commercial madness. And developing a minimal viable product can become embroiled in chaos if it lacks a sense of purpose – which is why “design thinking” is such an important underpinning.

Rolling out a product that is destined to change and adapt over time calls for a very different corporate mindset to what you may have been used to if the only products that typically go to market are those that are fully-formed and full-featured.

Why not consider…

Shoot for multiple minimal viable products:

  • Spread the risk of scrapping an idea at an early-stage by having more than one approach.
  • This avoids sending you back to square one repeatedly
  • It also gives you an opportunity to cross-fertilise ideas with project-derived learnings

An undecided future

The change we are all grappling with is customer-driven, and that presents a tremendous challenge. Whether it’s wanting to transact via an app on their mobile or expecting every retailer to move at high speed, if customers want something new, they will be tempted to go to whoever is offering it.

The opportunity facing established businesses is to fall back on their assets, one of which is the wealth of data they contain. Drawing valuable insights and actionable intelligence from that data can help refine processes, improve products and enhance service.

© 2020 KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative, a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity. Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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