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The sentient enterprise: Why Verizon, Dell & GM are paying attention

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Presented by Teradata


Imagine if you had the power to know what decisions every other employee at your organization was making and how their decisions impact the choices you make as you sit at your desk. It almost sounds superhuman, doesn’t it? Like ESP, or omniscience.

The average worker starts their day with many problems to solve. They may even use analytics and machine learning to predict what problem-solving approach is likely to work best for them. But after that decision gets made, how does the rest of the company — from sales and marketing, down to employees working at its hundreds of stores — understand how that choice impacts them and their own decision-making? Much of the problem comes down to data and analytics silos.

Imagine sales are down at your company, and the executive team calls a meeting. The CEO needs to know why. Then each department head arrives at the meeting, each with differing data. Everyone believes their data holds the correct answer and the meeting gets completely sidetracked. The company wastes time and energy trying to figure out who is right, and comes up short on actually solving the problem.

Siloed data has real-world impact. It’s what makes one company Barnes & Noble and another one Borders. The products are the same, but the business models of agile companies are vastly different. And strong business models are borne out of companies that can confidently make decisions at scale, instead of quibbling over whose data set is more accurate.

The most prolific companies in the future won’t have these “dark insights” — endless series of decisions made in silos. The entire enterprise — people, processes and physical assets — will react to internal and external changes like a single, dynamic organism. For inspiration on how this could actually work, look no further than your feet.

Of Ants and Men: The future of business decision-making

The average ant colony is about 5,000 in number — though some super-colonies swell to more than 1.3 million. But they all manage to stay on mission, and work as a single organism. They do this by sending each other messages through their pheromones. It’s the job of every single ant to communicate with every other ant walking along the same path. In fact, you can remove one ant from a trail, place it in another lineup, and immediately that ant will follow a new directive on its new path. Each ant has access to the data it needs for the entire ecosystem to stay on mission. If only humans had it so easy!

Every employee in the enterprise today is making dozens of decisions in a silo. There is no system in place that feeds their actions back into the company’s collective decision-making. There is no way for a business to know, beyond the use of static rules and processes, that every employee is making decisions that build on each other to take the company toward its goals.

You see, ants need to work as a single organism to survive, and the truth is, your business does too.

Creating an ecosystem where every single employee is empowered to make calls from the same playbook is not easy. In fact, not a single company can truly lay claim to that right now. Not Google. Not Facebook. Not Microsoft. Not even Amazon. And that’s good news for the rest of us. It means it’s not too late for fresh ideas and smarter business models.

Artificial intelligence is bringing about the dawn of a new era of connectivity — The Sentient Enterprise. Very soon, businesses will have the ability to harness algorithms and data to make the best strategic decision possible at every moment. The business will hum like a set of gears locked into the same chain. Each decision will be made with a new level of data-driven certainty.

And each worker will become superhuman — better than he or she could be on their own because of the collective insights backing them at every turn.

This may sound fantastical, but there is a plan for how to do this right now at your company. In The Sentient Enterprise,  a new book by myself and Mohan Sawhney, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, we provide a roadmap to the future of business decision-making and share a model for helping companies reconstruct their roadmaps right now.

The most cutting-edge applications that businesses can imagine today through analytics are predictive, like assessing future fail points for transportation or energy infrastructure. Sentient Enterprise goes beyond basic predictive analytics, enabling companies to examine all of their data to detect trends, patterns,and outliers in real-time.

This will allow companies to move from asking themselves, “Why are sales down?” to the more proactive “Why didn’t I predict and prevent that sales slump before it occurred?” Or, better yet, “What did we do right to prevent that sales slump?” And it’s already working for the companies we’ve interviewed in the book, like Verizon, Dell, Cisco, GM, Wells Fargo, Siemens, and others.

The fact of the matter is, just about every enterprise in the future will generate and store more data than was ever created at even this point in history. The speed of data is going to change, and businesses must change with it. Decision-making that scales will be intrinsic to enterprises that will win. When sentience is achieved, it may be so organic that it feels like a superpower. But don’t let it fool you — it’s better than that. It’s a proven competitive advantage through data, AI, and analytics.

Learn more about how you can begin your journey to future-proofing your business using The Sentient Enterprise model.


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