ROI on AI takes more than just technology. It takes a team of people who can confidently work with data to make informed decisions, plus a culture of experimentation and innovation. Heather Ryan, Lead Data Strategist and Shadow Board Member at Kin + Carta, says it's critical to have good data foundations to work with newer technologies, especially AI. "AI can't fix bad architecture. It can help you transform and structure your data, and therefore speed up the time needed to fix it, but it can't single-handedly solve problems that stem from bad foundations."
Data foundations, such as having the right architecture, good documentation practices, and strong data governance can help create a data center of excellence, which she adds, "will then breed experimentation and innovation, which is where you'll see success."
Drawing on the example of Kin + Carta's data strategy work with Toyota Europe, Ryan explains that their centralized access and understanding of data enables teams to rally around challenges and leverage data insights to drive solutions. This strong foundation allows the exploration of emerging opportunities, like GenAI, which accelerated the recent development of an AI proof-of-concept to help with vehicle selection. "Speed to innovation relies on having the right data foundations: empowering teams to make informed decisions and drive progress," she says.
Organizations have two primary options to consider when it comes to creating a data center of excellence:
The first aims to break down information silos where possible. This centralized approach creates a single source of truth and empowers decision-makers to access valuable insights for intelligent decisions and strategic pivots.
However, there is an alternative perspective known as data mesh that advocates a decentralized approach to data management. With data mesh, data is distributed across different domains or teams, allowing each domain to have ownership and autonomy over its data. For larger organizations looking to rethink data strategy, it's key to consider both options and lay the right data foundations for delivering ROI.
Once strategies are developed and data is collected, organizations need individuals with expertise to analyze this data and understand what needs to be done. Kin + Carta calls this finding your "moments that matter"—the critical touchpoints where a customer's loyalty can be secured. This is where you should focus your efforts and unleash your creative thinking to maximize the potential for success in both the frontstage (customer experience) and the backstage (business outcomes).