The Sentient Enterprise

The ability to understand, predict and ideally shape consumer behavior lies at the heart of today’s heightened interest in analytics and the growing appreciation for the huge potential of data-driven insights.

Retailers consistently ranked analytics as a strategic priority in the recently released "2016 Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Study" from RIS News. Retailers now know that data management is the core foundation of getting things right. They know that uncovering and acting on data-driven consumer insights is essential to stand out in a crowded marketplace battling for a well-informed, highly connected and technologically empowered consumer.

In the RIS News study, retailers are equally split regarding the two primary challenges they claim are keeping them from more fully adapting to analytics and becoming more data-driven:

Difficulty shifting away from a culture that has relied on intuition rather than data.

The absence of a clearly articulated analytics strategy in most retail organizations.

And harnessing big data remains a major challenge for the retail industry. Since point-of-sale scanning equipment first gave retailers insights into store-level sales and the ability to analyze transactions, retailers have been challenged to effectively leverage all the information they are capable of collecting.

Despite the slowness out of the gates in terms of operationalizing new understandings from the data, at scale, the retail industry is in the midst of an analytics revolution.

This challenge has grown exponentially thanks to the proliferation of data from structured and unstructured sources like social media and the self-service, real-time interaction consumers now expect from retailers. Terabytes have given way to petabytes as the yardstick by which large data volumes are measured, but a fundamental transformation is under way that allows retailers to actually make better use of the information they gather.

Despite the slowness out of the gates in terms of operationalizing new understandings from the data, at scale, the retail industry is in the midst of an analytics revolution. Disparate silos of information are being unified. Analytics are becoming automated. Actionable insights are more readily available. All thanks to unprecedented collaboration between humans and machines, or what we call the "sentient enterprise" at Teradata.

So what does the sentient enterprise look like? For starters, the sentient enterprise is a road map that retail leaders can use to finally harness and unlock the full potential of big data and analytics. It is an agile, balanced, and decentralized framework for analytics that enables retail enterprises to combine technology, governance and human engagement and rise above the flood of data. The sentient enterprise improves data agility, adopts a behavior-centric mindset, fosters collaboration, builds repeatable processes and uses algorithms at scale that can empower and supercharge "the art of the possible" when it comes to leveraging connected data and analytics across the retail enterprise.

When a business integrates all of these capabilities to think about, listen to and learn from data, it becomes a true sentient enterprise. It can act as one organism without being impeded by information silos. It can make autonomous decisions with little or no human intervention. It is always evolving with emergent intelligence that becomes progressively more sophisticated.

Above all, the sentient enterprise represents a needed cultural shift around data, a democratization of access to information, inviting experimentation and the repositioning of IT as collaborator, instead of the traditional gatekeeper, when it comes to retail enterprise data and analytics. The result is a "LinkedIn for Analytics" social environment to connect data and insights and send the best solutions, ideas, and analytics throughout the organization.

This—the retail sentient enterprise—will go a long way in moving the long anticipated "retail analytics revolution" forward.

Michael Day is chief marketing officer, retail, Teradata Corporation.