The future of data: collaboration, value and AI
Author: Richard Wingfield, Chief Technology Officer, Majid Al Futtaim — Ventures
Majid Al Futtaim — Ventures was invited to speak at the annual Microsoft Envision Conference in Orlando. The conference brings together the best of the industry, and we were privileged to participate and share our perspective.
Here are three of my key learnings from the discussions.
Partnering for Impact
The Envision conference started with the traditional keynote from Satya Nadella, Chief Executive, Microsoft. To the surprise of the audience, Nadella invited Bill McDermott, Chief Executive, SAP and Shantanu Narayen, Chief Executive, Adobe onto the stage. It was encouraging to see these three industry giants sharing a common platform to discuss their groundbreaking partnership which lays out a new vision for renewable data and intelligent applications.
The message was clear: in an age of consolidation, even former competitors now need to work together as partners to achieve real impact.
One such high impact initiative launched through this partnership was the ‘Open Data Initiative’. Like most organizations and certainly for us here at Majid Al Futtaim, data often tends to be stored in silos and can be challenging to access and use. The Open Data Initiative is a common data service that will allow organizations to seamlessly use data between Microsoft, SAP and Adobe applications to better service customers. This was a powerful message that has implications for businesses such as ourselves: at Majid Al Futtaim we use software from all three organizations, but we don’t yet have the ability to seamlessly integrate the data between the different platforms. This initiative removes these obstacles and will allow data to easily pass between our different software platforms. Using that data responsibly, creatively and for the ultimate benefit of the customer is how we can truly leverage this knowledge.
Data is the New Oil
Whilst there are many clichés around data (the mantra at the conference was “Data is the new oil”!), I believe we all intrinsically recognize data as being the foundational resource that can power an organization in moving forward and enable its transformation. It was food for thought for many in the room when the Chief Executive of Adobe asked “Why don’t organizations put the value of their data on their balance sheets?”
This is certainly a valid point. I would argue that when you look at data, for any organization, it is the biggest asset next to its people. Without data or information, most companies can’t operate.
A recurring theme at Envision was the concept of ‘tech intensity’. For us to succeed in this environment, we need to ensure that we are keeping abreast of the latest technology and in parallel, building our own digital capabilities. This certainly resonates with what we are trying to achieve at our company and forms the core of the Ventures ‘3-D’ digital transformation strategy which is underpinned by three pillars — Digital for Topline, Digital for Efficiency and Digital for Culture Shaping.
A Unique Asset
As a panelist at the conference, I presented on “The Use of AI within the Retail Sector” and my main message focused on a single source of data for our descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. We are also seeing the commoditization of data science, where products have artificial intelligence built into them. This was certainly showcased at the conference, where Microsoft products like Office 365, Dynamics 365 and PowerBI will be shipped with built-in AI capabilities, along with many partner products, some of which we are already looking at within Ventures and the wider group.
I met with many of my retail peers, several of them based in the United States, and as you can imagine, the discussion shifted to the ubiquity of Amazon and the new retail battlegrounds — digital vs bricks and mortar. Doug Stephens (Retail Prophet), a well-known retail futurist, had a strong yet positive message that I wanted to share. We can only compete with the likes of Amazon, if we remain obsessively focused on the ‘Return on Experience’. This echoes what our own leadership team espouse every day — each experience needs to be surprising, unique, personalized, engaging, and most important of all, repeatable. Yet again, data will be the contributing factor to achieving this.
That is the power of intelligent data. Given our footprint, customer touchpoints and brand equity, we are in a unique position to leverage our capabilities and use data as a tool to win. It truly is one of our most powerful assets.