Data and AI Transformations: Agility, Scalability and Partnerships

Within IT and business, we work on several transformation programs, which are either to deliver strategic initiatives or to meet regulatory requirements. The strategic initiatives may cater for the medium to long-term business demand or upgradation of technology and platforms. In some cases, it can innovate and help businesses meet their strategy to bring new products to market.

This short write-up highlights the factors that can become important in the overall success of such transformation programs. 

Recipe for success in large transformation programmes:

🦉Agility – wisdom-based journey: 

Even with the best of people, processes and technology in hands, it is not apparent to understand all the challenges at the start. Every organisation and transformation journey is different. We learn as we progress; hence, we should be ready to experiment and be open to opportunities for other routes/alternatives. So that we if have to pivot later, then we can.

🏗️ Build to Scale – Scalability by Design:

We are in a fast-moving world, and hence we need to be agile, where we want to try something quick and check its chances of success or failure. Sometimes, we need to crystallise an idea into a product to be more measurable and tangible. Converting it into a product ensures understanding the actual value and outcome before discarding it. We are well aware of the challenges and success rate of start-ups, where “horses” (the opportunities that the start-up generates) or “jockeys” the founders) can be one that gets blamed. The more significant challenge is not if the idea fails to deliver but if it is a grand success. A successful idea brings more work; if it cannot scale, it can become a bottleneck later. So, build scalability upfront, as this cannot be an afterthought.

✍️ Partnerships – Conscious Team: 

The partnerships have to be big and bold. There can be several factors to help us choose partners, e.g. cost, SME knowledge, reputation, future roadmaps and ambition, etc. When selecting our partners, we must be cautious about how much we trust and rely on, as true partnerships are generally not proven until the first disagreement. We do not need Dream Team; what is required is a Conscious Team.

When we look at the transformation, we must consider our strengths and weaknesses. Focussing on our strengths can help us understand how we are different and unique from others. The recognition of strength can give real purpose. It can become the fabric to join the organisation’s people to achieve the transformation outcome.

It takes us to introspect; what is unique about BT?

BT is unique in many ways, but in the above context and from the area I lead, i.e. Data and AI perspective:

  • 🏰 The company has a rich heritage of more than 176 years. We know how many start-ups come and go. It would not have been possible for BT to be in business for these many years if it did not continuously reinvent itself. We must not stop reinventing and innovating further.
  • 🤝 To be a leader in the business, the company has to be a Trusted Provider. From an IT perspective, this comes only if the data and system are secure. We need to ensure that the trust that our customers have put in us so far continues in future as well.
  • 💲 Profit can take us only to a certain level, and we need a purpose to achieve more for the transformation. We must ask simple but difficult questions, are we addressing the most critical challenge for society? BT’s vision is clear – “We connect for Good”. BT plays one of the most vital roles in laying down the country’s infrastructure by helping to connect.

After listening to Matt McNeill (Google) last year, I was inspired to write an article on this topic during a BT-Google knowledge-sharing session. The above article is my personal view and wisdom developed while leading large-scale data transformation programs. I currently lead the Enterprise Architecture function for transforming and modernising BT’s data and analytics, which has helped me understand the importance of agility, scalability and partnerships.

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