Data, Agility, and Digitization in the Workplace: Analyzing Trends from 2020 with John Karas
Data is everywhere and everything – for better or for worse – and the past year has made it clear just how important this data can be to businesses. But how can data be used for good?
John Karas, data product manager at Quickbase, uses data collected from customers to inform new features that solve the problems users experience on the platform. He understands the power of data, and how leveraging it unlocks potential for agility in all aspects of our lives.
As Karas recently shared on the Age of Agility podcast, agility means “having the people that are willing to change the processes and technology that you recognize need to be changed, with the urgency and capability to implement it.” When businesses see great outcomes, it means that these three areas – the people, the process, and the technology – are aligned, even when other macro areas of the business are struggling.
2020 has challenged professionals across industries to do more with data than ever before. As the world raced to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, “you had pharmaceutical companies trying to match up with researchers and join knowledge sets and kind of combine all this information,” said Karas, “So you’ve had the need of multiple people, multiple organizations needed to combine data to help solve a huge global problem.”
As these global problems have become increasingly complex and have infiltrated every aspect of our personal and professional lives, leveraging data to find solutions and achieve goals becomes more important than ever.
Achieving Operational Agility through Data
When scaled to the organization-level, operational agility – the ability to quickly pivot your process and strategy – becomes far more critical to business success. Especially in times of turbulence and uncertainty, companies need to adapt to change processes, sometimes only with a moment’s notice.
Data and operational agility go hand-in-hand – to make the right decision at the right time, you need to have relevant data at your fingertips. For businesses to achieve this state of full visibility – and more importantly, maintain it – they must address three essential components of data management: capturing new data, analyzing existing data, and connecting different data sources.
“Being able to do those three things with data is absolutely foundational in terms of being able to make your company more agile,” emphasizes Karas, where companies who do this successfully are “able to take that data they have, connect it and apply it and capture new information and then be able to pivot their company’s strategy off of it.”
Projecting Workplace Trends for the Future
Disruption from the last year has inherently changed the way businesses operate, accelerating a shift to digital processes for almost every business in every industry. Some businesses were relatively prepared, whereas others had to scramble to transform their processes to ensure operation continued. Especially in industries with complex operational needs, where folks can’t fully work from home, like in manufacturing and supply chain areas, change happened rapidly.
“Paper processes that relied on someone physically handing you information pretty quickly had to get transformed to be digital-based,” explains Karas. But these trends aren’t likely to disappear after the threat of COVID-19 passes. In fact, as companies look for ways to increase resiliency and business continuity in the future, it’s more likely that they invest in ways to ensure that operations can continue with a remote workforce even in industries that rely on physical and manual processes.
Karas speculates that turning to assembly lines and leverages new technology such as virtual or augmented reality are emerging trends still in their infancy. He is not alone in his hypothesis, and for many others, the topic evokes fear about people’s jobs getting digitized and made obsolete. But Karas has a strong faith in the unique power of human judgement and empathy, two things which ensure that people will always have a place in the workforce.
Digitization won’t replace jobs, but it will definitely change them. Karas points to Quickbase and other low-code platforms as examples of how workers can adapt alongside their roles. These tools democratize software development, allowing for people who aren’t developers to change the way their work for the better. Low-code presents an opportunity for professional development that’s accessible to workers regardless of their role or background, and empowers them to become innovators.