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BDW Frankfurt 2019: Why traditional companies should put analytics at the centre

Mon 21 Oct 2019 | Jens Winterberg

Nestlé Global Analytics & Innovation Manager Jens Winterberg on legacy firms’ struggles with data and analytics

Despite a significant amount of investment into analytics programs, many of which are enjoying decent returns, older companies burdened by legacy processes are failing to unlock the true power of analytics.

The holy grail — applying analytics to create harmonious and continuous improvement in operational efficiency across all business functions — is frustratingly out of reach.

In an interview with Techerati, Jens Winterberg, Global Analytics & Innovation Manager at Nestlé, put forward his two cents about why older companies struggle to capitalise on data’s possibilities.

Having spearheaded analytics innovation at Nestlé for the best part of two decades, a time which has seen the company standardise data and end-to-end analytics processes and systems, Jens’ opinions on the matter are worth more than most.

For Jens, if companies do not embed analytics ‘centrally’ into the line of business, their analytics programs will never match the scalability or agility of companies born in the internet age.

But what does it mean to ‘embed analytics at the centre’?

Analytics at the centre

For any business function to benefit from data, whether its Marketing & Sales, HR, or Finance, it needs to follow defined best practices and supporting master data standards. Jens says that while traditional companies are defining these metrics, they are doing so independently from each other and then reporting on performance after.

He argues companies should instead follow in the footsteps of digital disruptors by building data standards and business processes jointly around their analytical needs. Then he says analytics must be performed throughout the lifecycle of the process by the relevant stakeholders, not reported on to the board ad-hoc by the “data guys”.

Join Jens at Big Data World Frankfurt, 13 November, Messe Frankfurt

Supply Chain for Insight
13:20 – 13:50
Big Data World Keynote Theater

“Putting analytics at the end always results in having to clean up a mess afterwards – wasting time and resources in data cleansing,” he says. “It causes inflexibility, which is probably causing even more problems as you lose agility. Putting analytics into the “centre” helps you discover issues as early as possible.”

Old vs. new

Traditional companies are different beasts to your average startup, which goes a long way to explaining the disparity between them. It’s a great deal easier for modern-day organisations to build business models around analytics, as they are free from the burden of legacy processes and are largely conceived upon a strong data foundation, the likes of which Jens advocates.

For older companies, which invariably have more data sources and parties involved in their end-to-end processes, getting analytics in order is a huge undertaking and one you cannot blame them for baulking at.

Yet as Jens observes, they arguably have an even more urgent need to rearchitect their analytics than their cloud-first cousins, as their businesses are powered by complex end-to-end processes that are not confined to a given business function. The interdependencies between data and processes and the different areas of the business is something such companies often fail to grasp, he adds.

“It is even more important the more data sources you have or the more parties involved,” Jens says. “Many may say that there is no time to start with re-designing everything in advance, but without understanding the context you’ll hardly be able to make the step from prototype to industrialisation.”

“Today’s end-to-end processes are complex, going across company boundaries and systems up to consumers and back again. Processes practically ignore functional borders and so does the data.”

By putting analytics at the centre, senior leaders can also be sure they are asking the right questions to the people within the organisation who can best explain the results.

“You simply can’t get all possible insight out of data when it’s disconnected from the process and the underlying business purpose. Who then shall ask the right questions and interpret the results? At least I can’t see how this will happen.”

‘Data is the new oil’ is a phrase repeated ad-nauseum, and one oft-criticised as an oversimplification. But Jens says the analogy is a useful analytical tool.

He advocates treating “insight” as a product and “data” as a valuable raw material. Analytics is the process to transform the raw material into consumable product for fact-based decision making, similar to a “Supply Chain for Insight”. Again he argues, analytics needs to be rooted at the centre of every group of decision makers so that it is deployed to optimise people, processes, and tools.

“If you want to get something out of oil, you need to master upstream and downstream activities until you get a consumable product. You simply cannot fuel your car with crude oil. Same with data: Raw data in most cases is useless – you need to refine it to get the insight inside.”

“If you want to improve ROI from analytics or to scale analytics, you better think about the whole analytics end-to-end instead of optimising technology only or parts of the process only.”

To learn more about Jens’ Supply Chain for Insight, don’t miss his free to attend presentation at Big Data World Frankfurt, 13 November, Messe Frankfurt.

Experts featured:

Jens Winterberg

Global Analytics & Innovation Manager


analytics big data world Nestle
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