How to properly leverage technology in your organization

Jason Urban, Director of Data and Analytics, Ardent Mills

In today’s world, there always seems to be a “next best thing” in technology. We’re inundated with new ideas, new software, new programs – all claiming that they’re the way of the future, that they solve your problems, and that if you don’t get on board, your business will lag behind.

New technologies can open up a world of possibilities — they can make things easier, faster and enable innovation. That said, you may have the best technology in the world and not derive any value from it, while another company may have older technology but use it correctly and derive significant value from it.

Currently, there is too much focus on technology and the expectation that it will bring value on its own. The reality is that there is much more to it. If you don’t break down business silos, establish well-designed processes interconnected through data, and manage that data across your entire organization, you’re missing out on the value that can be unlocked.

Break down the silos

Breaking down silos within business and IT, and within IT, is critical to business success. Often there are silos between separately purchased applications, custom developed applications, integration teams, data warehouse teams, analytics teams, etc. If your organization does not support these technology functions, it can lead to:

● A network of overly complicated, redundant and/or interconnected technologies

● Inconsistent, contradictory, missing and/or poor quality data

● Inability to scale quickly with technology and/or challenges in creating data visibility for the business

Businesses today are made up of people, processes, technologies and data, all of which are interdependent. To be successful with technology, you need to understand the fundamentals and how it affects your teams across the organization. Business leaders must have these same understandings to break down silos, and functions must collaborate in the best interest of the organization. At Ardent Mills, the premier flour and ingredient company, we first take a “people, process and data” approach, then determine the technology required to enable it. This has naturally led to the removal of barriers, a more collaborative environment that drives innovation and ultimately helps the organization and the best interests of our customers.

Establish well-designed processes

For a business function to work best, well-designed and interconnected processes must be established. When these are not configured, it leads to hard-to-use data and an inability to generate advanced insights – both are critical to digital transition[1]functional cooperation.

Finding the appropriate balance between having too little technology and too much technology, breaking down silos and crossing the whole business[1]Functional collaboration leads to effective use of technology, continuous improvement and innovation

Again, using our first “people, process, data” approach, Ardent Mills has created an enterprise architecture group that focuses on understanding the processes our teams need and designs them to best fit them. . This proactive model looks at Ardent Mills as a whole and addresses common issues of the reactive model, focusing only on immediate versus long-term needs.[1]term goals. This holistic mindset enables our teams to function properly and efficiently and use data to make insight-driven business decisions.

Data management in your organization

Proper data management in your organization is key to having factual data that is easy to access and can be used to make decisions that maximize value. A great example of how we achieve this is our cross-functional organization that spans business functions and IT. Here is a breakdown:

● Enterprise: We have established roles for data management, self-service data analysts, data and analytics managers, and a data and analytics committee (senior directors) who help bring it all together and make decisions about priorities and different options.

● IT: We have an enterprise architecture group in place that aligns our technology stack to reduce redundancy and ensure it is implemented to support data alignment across systems . To truly succeed with data, you need to align technology solutions that all work together from a data perspective.

● Applications (developed, purchased or a combination) — Create and maintain data.

● Integrations — Make data available to other applications.

● Data Warehouses – Optimize data and centralize it for easier and faster analysis.

If these teams don’t align on how they implement their technology and collaborate, you’ll run into efficiency issues. Being internally aligned is key to leveraging technology successfully.

Value of technology and people

Overall, technology doesn’t work if you don’t have the right people and processes in place while actively managing your data. At Ardent Mills, we make our technology decisions based on what is needed to support employees and customers, processes and data while trying to maintain a simplified technology stack. Finding the appropriate balance between having too little and too much technology, breaking down silos, and enterprise-wide cross-functional collaboration leads to effective use of technology and continuous improvement and innovation. As long as you prioritize people, process, and data over “the next big thing,” you are sure to be successful in business and IT.