Reality Check: Companies That Don’t Go Digital Won’t Survive

Data is the gold of the 21st century and Tom Davenport – the President’s Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College with affiliations at MIT and Oxford – is a master at helping companies mine it and leverage it.

Named among the top three business/technology analysts in the world, the 100 most influential people in the IT industry, one of top 25 consultants by Consulting Magazine, and the world’s top 50 business school professors by Fortune magazine, Davenport is the preeminent expert on how organizations can extract value from information and technology.

A fellow of the MIT Initiative for the Digital Economy and a senior advisor to Deloitte’s AI practice, he introduced the widely influential concept of “competing on analytics” in his 2006 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article and its related 2007 book (updated in 2017). And in 2016, he was ahead of his time when he wrote about the human + AI future of work in his prescient book “Only Humans Need Apply,” followed in 2018 by “The AI Advantage: How to Put the Artificial Intelligence Revolution to Work,” which was among the first books to provide practical recommendations for using AI in business. He’s written over 300 articles for Harvard Business Review, and many were the first published on the topic.

 

“AI technologies won’t replace human workers but augment their capabilities with smart machines working alongside smart people,” he predicted at the time. “AI can automate structured and repetitive work, provide extensive analysis of data through machine learning, and engage with customers and employees via chatbots and intelligent agents.”

A prolific researcher and author of 20 books – including five on analytics and AI – Davenport’s work is relevant to any company that is trying to harness data, analytics, and AI for competitive advantage and organizational/cultural transformation. His latest focus is on “the future of work now” with examples of human/AI collaboration, on aggressive, “AI fueled” adopters of that technology, and on AI in health care. He’s currently writing books on all three topics.

“Every company has big data in its future and every company will eventually be in the data business,” says Davenport, whose seminal co-authored 2012 HBR article, “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century,” helped usher in a new generation of data scientists. “Companies and organizations around the world have spent trillions on hardware, software, and data science talent in order to advance analytics and AI. Yet a substantial number of firms still lack strong capabilities in these areas. The primary culprit is the absence of a culture that emphasizes data, analytics, and evidence-based decision making. But a few companies are now embarking on initiatives specifically designed to create data-driven cultures.”

Always operating at the forefront of innovation, analytics and big data movements, Davenport is a pragmatic, grounded-in-data consultant, educator and futurist. His invaluable expertise continues to help leaders across sectors use data to respond to what’s happening now and prepare for what’s ahead.

Marianne Kelly: