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The savviest business decisions depend on a lot more than gut instinct, according to experts at SAPPHIRE NOW last month. Advanced analytics has replaced intuition as the gold standard for improving outcomes and creating new business models -- processes that get better with every project.

Advanced analytics offer success-enabling value and insights; without them, even businesses with the best strategies are likely to fail.

“So it’s gone from really important to the most important thing that customers can be doing,” Pat Bakey, president and chief revenue officer for SAP Leonardo and Analytics, said in an SAP video (see below). “What I’m seeing right now, when I talk to all of our customers and all of our partners, is a deep need to immediately be able to compete as a business in a zero-latency environment.”

Analytics is one of the digital innovation technologies collected in SAP Leonardo, along with Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, machine learning and others. Organizations are seeking the success-enabling value and insights that analytics offer; without them, even businesses with the best strategies are likely to fail.

Wrestling Data, Not Your Colleagues

“We have a mindset at Sargento right now -- and it’s no different than at many other companies -- of making decisions off our guts,” Holly Baumgart, CIO and vice president of IT at Sargento Foods said during a SAPPHIRE NOW session last month. “We really want to use this digital transformation as an opportunity to get more data-oriented decision making ... that’s going to be a breakthrough for us.”

Sargento continues to build its analytics capabilities and training its people to best use the data, according to Baumgart. Having easy access to real-time analytics can even help employees get along better, according to L3 Technologies.

“She wanted people to wrestle with the data ... not wrestle each other,” John Finegan, senior director for Enterprise Applications and Strategy at L3, said at SAPPHIRE NOW of the company’s chief strategy officer. Advanced analytics have also helped the company better prepare for senior leadership visits with customers -- and growth.

How Analytics Enables Smarter Growth

“It’s helping us reshape where should we be going next, [and] what targets should we be going after,” L3’s Finegan said. “We bring in external market data that goes out for 15 years, which gives us an idea of all of the products and services that we sell, [and] what the market thinks is going to happen.”

With all of L3’s financial, M&A, HR and contract data on hand, senior leaders know in real-time during any customer meeting:

  • How many contracts it has with that customer

  • Dollar amounts for each contract

  • What they’re selling to that customer

  • Which businesses unit is doing the work

To enable growth, L3 can marry data about its opportunities for business development, M&A and research and development.

“So now, instead of individual businesses trying to sell components, we have an enterprise that’s selling systems or platforms,” Finegan said. “And we can target where we’re going to spend our money much better.”

But what about using the data to make money?

Turning Your Data Into the Commodity

Growth models for wheelchair companies would typically involve putting more people into wheelchairs, expanding into more countries or selling products at a higher price. None of those seemed like good options for Life & Mobility, which opted to grow its business by creating intelligent wheelchairs alongside an intelligence-rich platform.

“For each wheelchair user, there might be 10 or 20 people ... for whom this data is very relevant,” Harmen Leskens from Life & Mobility’s Product Management & Development said during a SAPPHIRE NOW session. IoT data from sensors in a wheelchair could provide tremendous insight to loved ones, caretakers, insurance companies and others, not to mention improving self-reliance, posture and other outcomes for the users.

In short, identify stakeholders, as well as what is valuable to them.

“You want to become a knowledge institute,” Leskens said.

Finding Your Data Partner

But managing all of that data responsibly, ethically and legally requires an experienced partner.

“We have several contracts where companies wanted to use data as a product, but you cannot just do what you want with that data; it has to be managed professionally -- think about GDPR,” SAP Chief Innovation Officer Juergen Mueller said during a SAPPHIRE NOW keynote. “We have this catalog of capabilities ... and with every project we do, these capabilities become richer.”

This story originally appeared on the SAP News Center. Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher