Every company is becoming a data company. In Data-Powered Businesses, we dive into the ways that companies of all kinds are digitally transforming to make smarter data-driven decisions, monetize their data, and create companies that will thrive in our current era of Big Data.

We live in an era of startups. Many of the biggest companies on the planet, which play major roles in our daily lives, didn’t exist 30 years ago. Google, Amazon, Facebook were all small-scale operations that moved fast, broke stuff, and eventually helped shape the world we know today. 

It used to be thought that large enterprises like IBM had a lock on technology and innovation: they had the money and the people to do whatever they wanted, build whatever was next. But that paradigm has shifted, and it’s now a prevailing cliche that startups know how to innovate, while enterprises are dinosaurs that will all die out because they can’t evolve to survive in the new, faster-moving business world. 

It’s true that the usual obstacles to data-driven innovation have never been easier to overcome. Small startups are making inroads in a variety of use cases, including even tough-to-enter ones like healthcare. Digital health investments into healthcare companies are on track to surpass 2018’s record-smashing total, and that’s just one industry.

Life for executives, business leaders, and Chief Data Officers (CDOs) is about to become very interesting, if it hasn’t already. But interesting doesn’t mean bad! Innovation today is being fueled by a thriving analytic apps economy. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but it also offers opportunities for innovators in enterprises to create new value and new revenue for their customers via analytics products and services. Companies that don’t do this truly are dinosaurs and will vanish from the earth.

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A proven track record

One thing that enterprises have that startups don’t is a track record. While it can be hard to get internal stakeholders on board with a bold new innovation plan, once you’ve got buy-in, your potential upshot is sky-high. 

While I was at GE Healthcare, I rallied early believers around the idea that providing actionable insights from our data was a way to drive better financial, operational, and clinical outcomes for our partners and customers. It worked! Data-driven programs created millions in recurring revenue and added a strong market differentiator. The multi-billion analytics and AI apps economy can do the same for your company. You just need to leverage your existing infrastructures, people, domain expertise, and markets.

Startups have trouble getting started

Without brand recognition and an established track record, startups fight an uphill battle in trying to get key decision-makers on board with their new products and services. The key stakeholders at other large companies, organizations, or government offices often aren’t looking for innovative new solutions to problems they’ve likely already solved. They just want to keep doing what they’re doing, control costs, etc. In many highly-regulated industries, it can be a struggle to integrate new, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants apps and tech solutions into legacy systems (dealing with governance, security, etc.).

This is where enterprises have the edge: companies and government organizations already trust you! Even if a startup has an equivalent (or even better) solution than you, you’re still already “in” at the various locations where that solution will be deployed. You have the advantage! Let’s dig into the ways enterprises can press their advantages and win.

How enterprises can win in the analytics app economy

Leverage your customer network

Every industry is becoming increasingly data-driven, but relationships still play an important role in making your analytic app play a success. First off: while startups often struggle to scale their marketing and sales operations to pull in customers and get cash to keep the lights on, enterprises often have huge sales orgs that can be repurposed more quickly. 

Remember, successful analytics programs require iteration. Your program won’t succeed because of one good idea, but from constantly trying new things. With a larger customer base to engage and experiment with, you’ll be able to try more ideas, faster, on a centralized platform.

Dominate with domain expertise

Additionally, while startups typically have founders with deep domain expertise, not all their employees can say the same. Meanwhile, your venerable enterprise has countless experts in a wide array of specialties, plus less-technical salespeople who nonetheless do have preexisting relationships in the industry and an understanding of what these people want and need in their jobs. Your network and knowledge are an intangible but vital edge!

Double-down on your data stores

Here again, the “speed vs power” dichotomy proves less ironclad than usually thought. Cloud offerings from AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google have all reduced the upfront investment required for startups to get into the analytics game, but you have access to the same tools! As an enterprise, you definitely have a cloud solution already, maybe even multiple cloud solutions, be they enterprise-wide and department-level. However, an analytics platform with cloud-native architecture empowers you to seamlessly connect to all your data, no matter where it lives, and start extracting value from it way more quickly than startups can.

That data is the real game-winner for enterprises: they’re the ones who have it. Any startup would kill to get its hands on the data stores sitting (possibly unused) at an enterprise company. These massive stores of data, plus any contextual data you can buy or partner with other companies to get access to, are the key to you building successful algorithms to power your analytic apps, create value for customers, and differentiate yourself in the market.

Build big, build boldly

Startups get all the hype, but slow and steady really does with the race. But in order to win, you do need to start running. Do it now. Don’t wait. Leverage your network, skills, and data stores and start building something that will turn into your eventual analytics solution ASAP. 

It’s easier than you think, too! You don’t need to try to guess your users’ 100 high-value questions. Just build an analytics organization and infrastructure that empowers you to answer any question at speed. Figure out where you can create for your customers, your suppliers, and your end-users, then deliver on that value and get a share of that outcome. Whatever you’re going to build, build it boldly!

Former Sisenser Charles Holive helps chief data officers and CXOs across industries accelerate digital transformation by driving business innovation toward new revenue streams.

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