My whole job is about helping big companies fully leverage big data analytics, and I’ve written specifically about a new Sentient Enterprise capability model to help businesses scale their analytic architectures and insights as they continue to grow. In doing so, even large firms can preserve the agile and opportunity-driven playbook you’ll find at the heart of any successful startup.
Anyone looking to make this happen in a big organization, however, will immediately see the challenge: Agility is easy when you’re a startup with just a few employees and a vision. But what if you’re a large enterprise with many employees, legacy systems and a hardened culture that may be anything but agile? With so many things to both learn and unlearn, this kind of change management is not easily captured in an employee handbook or HR memorandum.
Your job is more like putting an entire culture shift into action at an established company, with fiefdoms to engage and IT policies to overcome. So how do we make it happen?
Here are three suggestions:
Ask the Right Questions
Making real progress starts with a candid assessment of where you are currently. Let’s be honest, these moments of recognition can be incredibly uncomfortable. When I finish talking about the Sentient Enterprise at a seminar or conference, I invariably have people approach me afterward who are literally in shock, saying things like “Oh my gosh, we are so behind the curve. Where do we start?” My answer is that, by realizing the challenge, you’ve already started; the next step is to ask straightforward and honest questions of your business.
Where are the silos and hurdles to agility? Do you have access to the right data, at the right time? What are the policies around copying data? Is our funding structured for innovation and adaptation to new opportunities? How do you recruit, train, manage and retain our data professionals? These are just a few questions you need to include in a “warts and all” checklist that is a crucial first step toward changing things for the better.
Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast
I co-developed the Sentient Enterprise framework with Mohan Sawhney, director of the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He’s told me about similar reckonings with business audiences as they realize the immensity of the challenge; one panicked executive buttonholed him after a talk to say she felt like she was at sea level looking up at Mount Everest. Mohan reminded her that even Mount Everest is tackled incrementally, in phases. There are more than a dozen routes to the summit, in fact, with a base camp and four other major camps along the way.