• A smart business is one that runs on the numbers. Today, open communication means more access to customers and competition than ever. Even small companies have world-wide customer lists, in part due to the increasingly streamlined logistics companies that help with shipping. In a business world of static customers and increasing competition, staying ahead of the curve often means staying on the leading edge of technology. Smart businesses leverage technology for direct gains, and that all comes down to the data. Efficiency improvements, trend tracking, smooth workflows and dozens of other internal operational improvements depend on the data you can collect and interpret.

    All Data is Part of Big Data

    Big Data is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and all it means is that you now have access to an incredible amount of data points. Some data points are important, while others just clutter up the landscape. In a Big Data approach to collection, you take it all in and start sorting through to gain valuable business insights. The sheer volume of information collected can make this approach seem inefficient. But, when done well, data collection can lead to some serious business benefits.

    Benefits of Adopting a Data-Centric Approach

    Data collection can help every aspect of your business from developing new products to improving operational efficiency. Companies that collect customer intelligence have better marketing results. Organizations that use data collected after a customer buys a product can make recommendations based on usage. Internally, data collection can improve your supply chain or help with recruiting talent. By collecting millions of data points, you arm your business with the information needed to drive strategic thinking and overcome internal roadblocks. You can collect information on everything from the amount of time it takes to pull and ship an order to the best delivery routes and average wait times for customers. This information can also be used to assess employee performance. Data equals knowledge which ultimately drives decision making.

    Becoming a Data-Driven Organization

    Transforming your business into a data-driven organization doesn’t mean you need to start a new statistics department. It does mean you need to collate a lot of the information you are probably already collecting. Your systems already see the time it takes per phone call to customer service or how long it takes a sale to go from the register to delivery. The challenge lies in collecting that data into a single platform and putting it to work in a usable format. That’s where smarter technologies can really shine.

    An AI-backed ERP not only collects data and generates reports, it can also locate missing data points and suggest information that might help with certain processes. Automation is not the only use for AI, though that is also an area that can reap big savings for business. IBM Watson Studio offers a way to rapidly unlock your existing data so that you can turn it into actionable advice.

    However, with a data-driven organization, data governance becomes increasingly important. After all, low-quality and/or unbiased data will significantly harm the results achieved with artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, many organisations do not yet perceive data as a valuable asset and lack a clear understanding of the importance of high-quality, unbiased, input data and the need for rules that can govern AI. Such companies are facing a range of problems, such as biased recommendations as well as inconsistencies in data definitions, values and formats, thereby limiting the value an organisation can derive from the data at hand and harming the organisation. Therefore, for organisations to become truly data-driven, they should focus on achieving data compliance, trust, security and unbiased data, which requires the right data governance practices.

    Data governance enables firms to comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or Basel II or III. Those companies that can maintain a balance of value creation and risk exposure in relation to data and Artificial Intelligence can create a competitive advantage. Data governance is more than just data quality and also include practices such as policies and processes to create value from data. High-quality data refers to the accuracy, timeliness, credibility and completeness of the data. Data governance in relation to Artificial Intelligence focuses predominantly on the quality of data and the prevention of bias in data. High-quality, unbiased data is vital for AI to function properly, since wrong or biased data results in incorrect outcomes; garbage in is garbage out.

    High-quality, unbiased data combined with the right processes to ensure ethical behaviour within a digital environment, understanding the origin and lineage of your data, how AI uses that data, and how it’s being used across your business could significantly contribute to Artificial Intelligence. IBM Watson Studio can help to achieve just that.

    How IBM Watson Studio Can Help

    IBM Watson Studio streamlines the process of building and training AI. Essentially, it helps you develop the smart technologies you need to track data and make decisions based on the information collected. Watson Discovery, a part of the IBM Watson Studio approach, offers you the ability to see deeper into your organization. By automating trend tracking and giving your computer the ability to interact directly with your staff, you can uncover deep links in your organization that aren’t obvious just by looking at the numbers. Watson Studio incorporates a full suite of development tools, including Watson Natural Language Processing (NLP) so your computers can respond to queries as written. That removes an element of expertise needed to generate reports. When you can just ask your computer for information, you don’t need to spend an hour working out the kinks in a database query.

    Getting Started on Watson Studio

    With Watson Studio, you get a lot of functionality right out of the box. Pre-trained, customizable services are part of the API offered, so you don’t have to wait weeks or months before you can start deploying better data collection. Working with Watson puts all of your organization’s information at your fingertips, in a system that can understand what you want. Instead of building a marketing list based on cumbersome queries, you can simply ask for a list of all customers between a certain age that meet specific criteria. That speeds up segmentation for marketing. For HR, a quick question nets a list of qualified folks on your current employment rolls. The longer you work with your pre-trained AI, the better it will be able to serve your business. After all, just like the employees you hire, your AI will gain organizational knowledge that will help it make better decisions over time.

    With IBM Watson Studio, you get access to a wealth of training data, pre-trained systems and the ability to customize what you want, all with an easy to use platform that doesn’t take an AI expert to use. When you can build better access to data into your tech solutions, using the IT support you already have, you’re well placed to take a giant leap forward in every aspect of your business and become a smart business.

    This article has been made possible by IBM.

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