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What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything else?

Not so long ago, at the end of an internal meeting, we were sharing animatedly the answer that Deep Thought, the second best computer ever built, gave after seven and a half million years of calculation, to the question “what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything else”, in one of the multiple and surrealistic twists of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the famous work by Douglas Adams (1952-2001): forty-two. To be entirely fair, we must admit that the supercomputer added to its cryptic answer the reasoning that the original question was poorly phrased and therefore needed to be rephrased to really understand the meaning and scope of the answer.

This reference to the famous original radio series or the subsequent literary trilogy is not uncommon to illustrate the relevance that the starting point of any data-driven project always has.

More and more organizations are understanding the opportunity to generate competitive advantage from the adoption of predictive and prescriptive solutions that automate and optimize certain decision making processes.

When we work with our clients to build a predictive or optimization model that must create and deliver value, in a reliable and scalable way, using data related to certain business processes as raw material, we cannot insist enough on the four main keys to the success of these initiatives:

  • Sponsorship at the highest management level in the organization, given the cross-cutting nature in many cases of the processes and associated internal dependencies.
  • Availability of historical data sufficiently representative of the process.
  • Close collaboration with experts in the business processes and in the data and variables involved.
  • Verify that we are facing a ‘solvable question’: the analysis of the scenario must allow us to approach it from the data, and be able to identify and, if necessary, discard (or rethink, as suggested by Deep Thinking) the question or the target use case.

The transformative potential that the optimal application of these techniques has for organizations of all sectors and types is undeniable, and although the leading global companies by market capitalization have been demonstrating this for years since their application in most of their internal processes, we are witnessing the first years of a -new- unprecedented technological revolution, In the next five to ten years, these techniques and capabilities are already within the reach of any organization, and in the next five to ten years they will be imposed in a transversal way in growing application scenarios, generating new business models, transforming organizations and generating a very profound change.

Although the paradigm of a data-driven organization in which most of its critical repetitive decision making processes can be addressed through predictive models may still be far away in many cases, it is necessary that we start the process in a decisive way, raising awareness internally among our teams about the concepts and key messages, defining governance and management models for data as one of the main assets of our organizations, and defining a roadmap that is realistic, achievable and connected to our corporate strategy, that begins to create and deliver value from data, developing and implementing predictive and optimization solutions for specific use cases, that begin to transform and improve our organizations, generating savings, increasing efficiencies, automating and optimizing decision making and allowing us to redirect our resources to creative functions that are difficult to automate.

We are not yet able to identify what should have been the correct formulation of the question for which the answer of the supercomputer in Douglas Adams’ work showed us its full scope and meaning, but we are able, as we do in an increasing number of clients, to apply all these capabilities and techniques in private and public organizations of any sector of activity and size, providing real value and a key strategic positioning for their future.

Article published in the edition Agenda de la Empresa nº 254 of March 2020.

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Juan Carlos Rubio Director OGA
Juan Carlos Rubio

With more than 20 years of international experience in technology consulting in multinational environments in different roles, including team management and strategic advice on the relationship between business and technology, from the management and direction of programs and projects.

Founder and CEO at oga. Rugby player, passionate about guitar, travel, gastronomy, very proud father, always thinking...