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Be brave and bare your metrics – Data makes business transformation tangible

Data and business transformation are closely connected. By keeping an eye on one, you can track the progress of the other. However, to measure your success, you need to have basic data literacy skills and a foundation to build on. After reading this article, you will know how to start building that foundation and why it is crucial to be open about your metrics.

Why is setting targets, defining metrics, and sharing them important in a business transformation? Simply put, it will help you succeed in digital transformation. Your people will be more committed to the transformation when they are aware one is happening and what is expected of them.

You will also gain more insight into how the transformation is progressing: Should you continue the same course or pivot? Metrics will help you react faster and make decisions based on facts – not gut feelings. Your communications will be more effective with facts to support them, and you will be able to make your case to different stakeholders easier.

Where are you now, and where would you like to be?

If you cannot measure the change, success remains debatable. Defining your current state and the target state are crucial first steps in any transformation project. When you define them, you will know where you are headed and what progress looks like.

Often, it is easiest to start by describing the current state: Where are you now? From there, you can move on to where you would like to be and what the key steps are on the way there. Say you are a company who wishes to move customer service from phone to self-service. You might look at what your spread is now and what you would like it to be, for example.

Next, make sure that your data capabilities are defined

To make the most out of data, your organisation needs to set some basic capabilities and ground rules. These essential data capabilities fall into three categories:

If your organisation has these essential capabilities, it usually means that the rules for processing data are the same throughout the organisation. Often, it is also a sign that there is a unified foundation for collecting enterprise data assets and the use of shared data assets follows common principles for sustainable development. If these shared rules and guidelines have not yet been set, you will likely have to have internal discussions on topics like data ownership and architecture, security and compliance, to mention a few.

If you would like some insight and guidance on how to have these conversations and successfully ensure your data capabilities, the Business Technology Standard is the tool you need.

Choose your level of bravery, but do not shirk from building transparency

The next step is to share these metrics. It takes guts ­– but pays off. There are three levels of bravery with transparency, I think.

The first level of bravery is opening your metrics to just the whole transformation project team.

The second is opening the metrics to the whole organisation. Yes, everyone. This will build trust within your organisation. As your people can follow the progress of the transformation, they will feel more included and be more committed to the transformation.

Why stop there, while you are at it? This is the third level of bravery: Share your goals, metrics and progress in strategy and mission statements. I would like to see more organisations sharing their metrics, successes, and pain points publicly.

Whichever level you choose, provide facts and figures. The cardinal sin of project communication is offering too much fluff and too little facts. If you are trying to reach people who do not have direct connections to the project, a fourteen-page newsletter will likely be left unread. Instead, try a short info package with key numbers and achievements, for example.

Learn these five lessons to learn about data, privacy and analytics – among other things

Use your data to its fullest potential

So, you have defined your current state and target, set metrics, and shared them. The work does not end there. Use the data and knowledge you are gathering to seek new potential to support decision-making and finding new business models.

You can analyse your current processes: Could you be doing something more efficiently? You can create prediction models for the future of your field to create better results. Knowledge and data also give you the opportunity to automate and optimise processes.

Data and metrics are a great base for innovation, too. Maybe there is something else you could be doing or someone who would benefit from your extra data – and pay for it, even. Think how other business units and organisations in your network could make use of your data.

Imagine an airline. It takes people from point A to point B. Now, imagine a company researching air pollution. They would like to collect and analyse samples of the atmosphere gathered from high altitudes. However, it might not be practical for them to buy airplanes to take their equipment to the needed altitudes. So, they ask the airline to house their sample gathering devices on their planes while they take people from A to B. There’s money to be made here – for both parties!

The road is long but well worth traveling

The road to making the most of data in your transformation can be long and winding. However, prioritising and solid experience helps in clarifying the essentials. Then, it is just a matter of hard work and careful change management.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought and that in your next transformation project you will be brave, set your target state and metrics, and share them openly. I highly recommend you choose the highest level of transparency you are comfortable with. Love your numbers! They will help you communicate, engage people, and track your success.


Markku AlankoMarkku Alanko is an advisor in digital transformations, continuously improving business with technology. He is passionate about the role of data in redesigning business and looking for the next levels of performance. Markku’s interests cover the technical enablers, business reasoning and the required cultural change.