IT: Helping Clients to Reach their Potential
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IT: Helping Clients to Reach their Potential

Stuart Kippelman, SVP and CIO, Platform Specialty Products Corporation [NYSE:PAH]

Revolutionizing the IT Industry with Big Data

We are all aware that everything we do in IT is for the purpose of delivering valuable data to the business users at our companies, at the right place, and at the right time. It is not about which hardware or software product we use, which standard was selected, or which vendor provides it to us. It is not about the technology, or how energy efficient the data center is (unless you are one of the few specific technology companies). What Big Data is all about, is what business improvement can be achieved when we properly apply compute power to answer questions.

Making quick and accurate business decisions is one of the best ways to create a competitive advantage. Yet, we are only just beginning to leverage big data to help speed the decision making process. We have done a good job of collecting, organizing, and storing data. We have spent considerable time working to maintain, manage and improve the accuracy, quality and completeness. This is all good, but we must shift as an industry to make the data more easily consumable by the end users in our company. We need better tools which make self-service analytics as mainstream as access to email or the Internet. Until we can do that, big data remains available only to the experts.

Last, not only can we make faster decisions, on a much larger set of data, but we can mine the data to find hidden meaning that no human could have found in a reasonable time. Earlier in my career I developed software that turned documents into patterns, a kind of fingerprint. Then matching up the patterns, you were able to determine which documents spoke about the same topic, but used totally different wording to do it. With this method, we were able to group documents and find a very different meaning in them vs. what we thought was there. It helped many scientists in searching for research. We all must think different about the application of big data, and how it can impact growth.

​  We have spent considerable time working to maintain, manage and improve the accuracy, quality and completeness 

Leveraging the Technology of Tomorrow

I believe the smartwatch can become a significant productivity tool in the workplace. The productivity improvement is dramatic when you think about it. It is so much more convenient than removing my smartphone from a pocket, pressing buttons, etc., with just a flip of my wrist, I can do the same thing. Using geolocation, think of the value of a smartwatch with manufacturing, warehousing, laboratories, etc. the right data, at the right time, in the right location, automatically with the flip of a wrist.

There are many potential examples of how a smartwatch can be used. All workflow approvals could be queued and put on a smartwatch where the user can scroll through and approve or deny all requests. From maintenance professionals at manufacturing facilities, to scientists waiting for a lab experiment to complete, the smartwatch can be used to improve productivity with timely notifications. Imagine getting notifications on your smartwatch with location-based safety tips, calls for help and even alerts to identify potential hazards.

Within IT we talk a lot about the value of data, mining, analytics and generically Business Intelligence. We are implementing amazing tools, yet we access all of the data in very transitional ways–the Browser. Imagine a device like Amazon’s Echo being used to access all of the data. “Alexa, who are my top customers by profit vs. sales volume?” “Alexa, do I have enough inventories in our Switzerland warehouse to cover orders placed this week?” “Alexa, how much do my accounts receivables total?” There are so many options; I find I could write 100 of them very quickly. Think about what is happening here with this concept? This completely eliminates the technology, making it totally invisible to the users. The end of dashboard and reports, instead you just ask the questions!

I believe every company needs to think of themselves as a technology company. What I mean is with the right application of capabilities, any company can leverage technology to make a positive difference for the business. If business leaders view their business as a technology driven company (even if in reality they are not), it changes the perspective of what can be done. Even with the most basic business process, it would be impossible at this point to deliver the same level of productivity we see today, without the use of technology. We are spoiled, and this also applies to our everyday lives. Technology makes us coffee, unlocks our cars, locks and unlocks our hotel room doors, and once the Internet of Things becomes more prolific, technology will be built into every object we have in our homes.

How does a business better leverage technology?

The answer is by better leveraging the IT departments’ knowledge.  As an IT leader, that responsibility turns to you. IT holds a very unique perspective within each company, sitting in the middle of all departments and functions. If we have the proper knowledge and understanding of the business, we are then able to connect the dots where other might not see them.  

Connecting the dots means stepping out of the technology role, and understanding the business and how it functions. It means being totally and completely integrated with the business and their priorities. This not only applies to IT leadership, but to every person no matter what their role in IT. It is our responsibility to learn the business, and have a deep understanding of what is needed to be successful. This includes having a deep understanding of the customers, how they work, and how they view a successful partnership with your company.  

We must be the ones that will drive better business processes, better capabilities, and better outcomes for the business. IT must stop being order takers, and be part of solving the business issues, and be responsible for driving growth.

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