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January 25, 2023

‘Data First’ Approach is ‘North Star’ of Digital Transformation: HPE CEO

A “data first” approach must become the “North Star” of digital transformation, according to Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Antonio Neri. In an article written for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the HPE executive explores how, in his own words, organizations must align strategic, organizational, and technological choices with the overarching goal of leveraging data as a strategic asset.

At a time when an enormous amount of decentralized data is being captured from numerous sources, including networked devices, machines, buildings, and infrastructures, unlocking its value offers opportunities for societal progress by using this data to take on geopolitical, economic, and environmental issues, said Neri.

World governments are currently investing in data technologies, frameworks, and regulations in recognition of the transformative potential of data for economic and social progress, yet Neri believes many organizations are unprepared to capitalize on these opportunities. HPE conducted a recent survey of 8,600 executives that found the average organization’s data maturity score (the ability to create value from data) was only 2.6 on a five-point scale. Neri sees this as indicative of not only an inability to fully leverage data as a strategic asset, but also a lack of basic capabilities for doing so.

“The survey reveals that these limitations hinder such organizations’ ability to create key outcomes such as growing sales, innovating, advancing customer experience, improving environmental sustainability, and improving humanitarian standards across their supply chains,” said Neri. He goes on to describe a new “digital divide” where companies who take a data first approach, or are the most data mature, have a strong lead against competitors who are disconnected with the power of their data.

What can be done to bridge this divide? Achieving a high level of data maturity in order to leverage data as a strategic asset and strengthen control over that data is Neri’s answer: “Eventually, this means that organizations will become data platforms in their own right because of their ability to access, control, protect, govern and unlock the value of data, regardless of where it is generated and stored – in remote locations, across distributed devices and in datacenters and clouds,” he wrote.

Digital transformation and sustainability are extremely connected, says HPE CEO Neri. (Source: metamorworks/Shutterstock)

Instead of organizations working in isolation with their data, Neri calls for decentralized, scalable data architectures that allow the sharing of data and analytics across organizational boundaries and country borders without sacrificing privacy and control. “In the meantime, the technologies and organizational models are available to reach that goal, including federated data spaces, data cooperatives or swarm learning. But they can only bear fruit if organizations are equipped to take advantage of them. Organizations must control their own data to make it useful for others. And unless data becomes the critical driver of their value chains, organizations will not benefit from the cooperative’s data,” he wrote.

Placing data value and control at the center of digitization strategies will be required for unlocking the value from an organization’s data, Neri continues, and he recommends several actions to start:

  • Define a data strategy with clear objectives aligned with the organization’s overall goals.
  • Assign strategic investments to data initiatives with endorsement from the most senior levels of the organization.
  • Appoint a senior-level data officer with accountability for the data strategy.
  • Create an effective architecture to manage data end-to-end securely.
  • Start establishing the skills to master advanced analytics methodologies.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting took place in mid-January in Davos, Switzerland, and tackling global challenges with sustainability was a key theme. Neri was interviewed for Yahoo Finance and was asked HPE’s role in the transition to renewable energy: “We as a company play a huge role. We believe sustainability and digital transformation are extremely connected,” he said. “When we think about the value of data, data can play a big role in accelerating the execution of [sustainability] plans using the technologies that we all now live with, like AI, machine learning, and AI at scale, in particular, to do the research we need to do.”

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