Harrington Starr host The Great Data Rush event in New York City

5 Minutes

Just as oil powered the engines of the second industrial revolution, data is viewed by many ...

Just as oil powered the engines of the second industrial revolution, data is viewed by many as the black gold of our times. The issue? There’s just so much of it, and so many ways to use it. How can we democratise data, what obstacles are in our path, and how do we define its value? Harrington Starr was delighted to host a stimulating debate in New York, entitled The Great Data Rush: If Data is the New Oil, How Ready is Your Engine?’, hosted by Toby Babb, Founder and CEO of Harrington Starr. Joining him in the discussion were Kate Chatzopoulos, Director at Symphony, Kevin Sweeney, Head of Product Management Strategy, Planning & Operations, FCAT Product Management at Fidelity and Kartik Chopra, Founder and CEO at Devron. What follows are some of the key takeaways that came out of their nearly 45-minute-long discussion together at the event. What’s the Risk? Kicking off the discussion, Kate touched on the large quantity of data flowing through her platform alone. In her view, with great sums of data comes great risk, citing the recent events surrounding Silicon Valley Bank. Kate revealed that financial institutions which pushed out data on non-compliant tools like SMS, WeChat and WhatsApp were fined over $549 million collectively, creating much tension in the marketplace In her words, “Many institutions are very focused on monitoring their data and ensuring that it's being used in a compliant way. It's one of the reasons why Symphony was built…and really from our perspective, what we're doing is…ultimately connecting them with purpose so that we protect. We connect, and we accelerate the movement of information from one place to the other across the marketplace.” The History of Data Kevin offered a broad overview of the history of data, starting with the situation facing the likes of 1960s ad executives in the Mad Men-era of business practices. Kevin zeroed in on how such people made business decisions based on a guess and a limited pool of data. Fast-forward to the 2020s, and Kevin believed more and more businesses were using data to reduce risk. According to Kevin, “You went from a situation where you had data, very, very small, took a guess at it, to now, [where] you're at a point where you can almost project what's going to happen in the future. And with these tools and the advancing of AI, it's becoming easier and easier and easier. So, the only caveat to that is how much data is in economies of scale where you have too much. And then you start flooding. Obstacles to Growth with Data Turning to some of the challenges posed by data, especially to start-ups, Kartik mused that, by their very nature, disruptive start-ups with software to sell face the challenge of defining themselves in branding terms through differentiation. By their nature, their work will involve requiring them to access customer data, but at the same time, these start-ups will need to build a narrative among customers that they had been mishandling data up until that point, and that they provide the solution. Expanding further, Kartik posed the question, “If you can solve that function, what's going to allow you to actually move faster inside of a customer landscape, and actually get multiple stakeholders together, to get their data and in a place where you can derive enough insights from it and actually get youranalytical product in the right place?” The Democratisation of Data What was never in doubt was the power of data. Kevin suggested room for optimism that data was no longer reserved for specialists and the select few, but rather the person on the street, a democratisation of data as it were. Kevin also spoke of how data was now becoming something more decentralised, despite a historical push to see data being centralised. Returning to the point about using limited data to aid past decision-making, Kevin mused, “What did people do to build these monster companies in the first place? They took limited data and they made decisions.” Looking to the future, Kevin asked, “Why can’t we do the same thing actually, with AI and these tools? Actually take that limited data and make more reasonable decisions?” Getting Engines in Position Returning to the central theme of data as a potential new oil, Toby posted the question of what could be done to get business engines in the right position to leverage data. Kate posed a question of her own: “From an operations perspective, I would say the most important thing is, what is your communication strategy?” Kate pointed to the example of how important it would be to aggregate all means of communication under one roof, especially if working with a proprietary or vendor tool. Not only that, but Kate pointed to the importance of leveraging bots to analyse data and identify the most common questions being shared with them, in an encrypted way. The Future of Data To close the discussion, the future of data was raised, especially what we could expect to see in 2024. According to Kevin, storage of data is likely to get cheaper and cheaper, while suggesting that the future of data could be a mirror image of its past: businesses returning to a point of using more limited data to make decisions, validated through the likes of AI. Kartik believed data had indeed become a new oil, but that businesses are also expected to need less of it moving forward. By his logic, data is being converted into models, which in turn are converted into algorithms which form the basis of programming languages to build new workflows. In short: businesses will become more dependent on these algorithms to aid decision-making, to quicken the pace of data scraping, data normalisation and data engineering. Looking back at recent acquisitions made by Symphony, Kate revealed a purchase was made for software which allows for creation of organisational maps, and ultimately digitising directories and creating people reference data. Kate also talked of an acquisition in a company specialising in virtual conference calls, something which became increasingly important in the post-COVID space. Symphony had also acquired an analytics company, and Kate prompted the audience to think of the implications of being able to leverage data from voices through transcription. Far from being a relic in the office space, in effect, the telephone is back in the room, and the data to be sourced from voices could ultimately help improve processes and ultimately ROI too.
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