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Possibilities Podcast Episode: 16

Are different industries occupying different spaces on the spectrum of digital transformation? And if so, what are the drivers of that?

Justin Honaman is the Vice President of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement: Analytics, Data, Digital Transformation at Georgia-Pacific. His background is centered in consumer goods, retail, and travel, and he's done consulting in how to leverage technology for business.

Justin joined us on this episode of Possibilities to talk about how each industry is facing its own unique data analytics challenge based on its maturity in the digital transformation process.

Industry Differences in the Digital Transformation Journey

Retail is changing, and it's a really exciting space. Over the last couple of years, though, it's taken a few casualties among retailers that couldn't transform on the consumer goods side.

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Consumer goods companies with dedicated infrastructure already face the challenges presented by legacy products.

Just think about milk. It used to be available only in skim, 2 percent, and 1 percent. If you look at the milk cooler now at the grocery store, there's a huge variety of flavors, almond milk, oat milk, and more. The same variety is on the cereal aisle or in the granola section.

"You could pick any category," Justin said, "and find that there has been a big shift in terms of what consumers are demanding or wanting to buy."

The consumer goods companies that are able to innovate and keep up are growing, and the ones that are just hoping that their legacy brands just make it are the ones that over time will be bought and then cut down to the roots.

What Difference Does Size Make?

Consumers want to customize what they buy, and that requires systems and processes. Consequently, big companies have a lot of legacy processes, people, and systems.

"I would say the watchword for those companies," Justin said, "is modernization."

For example, upgrading and modernizing back office systems while adding new cloud capabilities and new cloud-enabled solutions.

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But the smaller upstart guys don't have all that legacy infrastructure. They're able to leverage social and other types of marketing to get their product out faster. And they don't have legacy infrastructure that slows them down and doesn't allow them to get into the markets.

"It's really interesting in the industry now," Justin said. "It's going through a lot of change and disruption, but a lot of it's driven by technology."

Besides Technology, Who's Driving Innovation?

There is no binary answer. Data analytics are part of every business and every group.

But for sure we can say it's not the chief data officer or chief analytics officer anymore.

Now, all the groups contain data scientists and engineers, people with skill sets in different areas of data.

That's not to say there isn't a comparative advantage for companies that have chief digital officers. But …

"I think over time that also will disappear because digital is part of all those groups," Justin said. "There's digital finance, there's digital supply chain, there's digital procurement in sourcing. There's digital in marketing."

Of course, the customer experience or what the customer wants really drives much of the vision. Companies are asking: How do we have to change our manufacturing or delivery process to make the products and services to meet the customer demand? How do we source people, process supplies, materials and what not to make those items?

How Are New Technologies Implementable and Applicable?

This is what's called intelligent automation. It includes robotic process automation (RPA), which is a tactical approach.

"When you think about RPA, it's usually code that's doing something with data or doing something within a system or a process," Justin said. "But over time, as the business looks to become more intelligent or to leverage information in new and different ways, that's where you see artificial intelligence coming in and machine learning.

Yes, machine learning and AI are a fad right now. It's like you can't say one without the other in a sentence. Nevertheless, companies using A.I. are doing incredible things. Think IBM and Watson, for instance.

But smaller companies can get involved, too. Just ask: Where does artificial intelligence fit within our company?

"You would typically find this type of skill set in an analytics group or an advanced analytics group," Justin said. "I say that hesitantly because I think over time you're going to find it all over the place in the organization."

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Today, a lot of people that write code and bots and have developed RPA, and they're not even part of an analytics group. Newer technologies will be very real, very important, very prevalent, and very much growing over the next 1-3 years.

This post is based on The Possibilities Podcast with Justin Honaman. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe here.

If you don’t use iTunes, listen here.

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About the Author

Brendan Kavaney
Global Head of Field Marketing and Demand Generation

Brendan Kavaney- Possibilities Podcast Host and Global Head of Field Marketing and Demand Generation at Mindtree, a 20 year Marketer with a big passion for Marketing Technology and all things Digital. He leads a highly innovative team across a vast array of industries including Banking, Financial Services & Insurance, Retail, Manufacturing & Consumer Goods, Travel, Transportation & Hospitality, Technology & Media.

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