Zhiwei Jiang can’t even begin to count how often he’s heard the phrase “data is the new oil.” Presumably more often than most, given that he’s CEO of Insights and Data at Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services.
Even before joining Capgemini in 2014, his banking career, which culminated in the role of managing director of Deutsche Bank in London, had long instilled in him a healthy respect for data-powered business.
So, does he agree with the cliché? Absolutely not.
“Data isn’t oil,” Jiang says. “At least not anymore. Data is more like sunshine, abundant and unlimited in its potential. It has a positive impact on the environment. And critically, sunshine wants to be shared – not hoarded.”
The importance of data sharing is something that Jiang makes sure to emphasize. At Capgemini, there is a strong belief that it takes an ecosystem to truly derive value from data, and that the benefits of doing so are endless – from improved customer satisfaction and highly optimized operations to societal good and a more sustainable future.
How does data sharing address some of the main concerns you’re hearing from customers?
ZJ: First, we need to understand that data has no intrinsic value – its value only comes from its activation for business objectives.
Particularly following the pandemic, our customers have access to vast amounts of data, and they certainly understand the need to be “data powered.” But they’re struggling to turn data into real, tangible business outcomes. Because data can’t be selected and used in a silo. You need to be able to analyze aggregate data, track trends across multiple businesses and industries, and fill in any gaps in your own internal data.
How can organizations get greater value out of their data?
ZJ: This is where data ecosystems are key, as they allow multiple organizations to pool their data resources while staying in compliance with relevant regulations and competitive considerations. And that’s when you can really start deriving unique insights, creating killer algorithms, and powering far more sophisticated technology innovations, like intelligent automation and AI.
There are also other benefits beyond these insights. Data monetization, for instance. By 2025, the combined value of the data economies of EU27 countries alone is expected to be more than €550 billion. I really shouldn’t mix metaphors, but aggregated data has the potential to be a real gold mine for many organizations.
And – first things first – sustainability tops many priority lists, and for good reasons too. As regulations evolve and societal expectations grow, data is critical to make organizations meet their sustainable development goals and establish their relevance in the future green economy.
Let’s get concrete: How can data ecosystems help organizations drive sustainability?
ZJ: They’re driving efficiencies, providing vital knowledge, and ultimately powering innovation.
Let me share a couple of examples.
Companies within energy and utilities – obviously hugely important sectors to the global climate change agenda – collect granular data to better understand energy consumption patterns and load variation. This enables them to plan their supply and reduce wastage – creating both environmental benefits and cost benefits for the grid and consumer.
PassivSystems, a UK-based smart energy platform company, recently partnered with Sheffield University and the nonprofit Open Climate Fix to exchange and use data for accurate predictions of solar energy generation.
There’s also a great story of the Lofoten-Vesterålen Ocean Observatory (LoVe Ocean), which placed sensors throughout the ocean to gather data on unexplored marine ecosystems. Capgemini has been working with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research to interpret and analyze this data, creating AI models. We want to learn as much as we can about our oceans, particularly their patterns and how they are affected by man-made stressors, to keep them as healthy and self-maintaining as possible.
What can be learned from these two cases?
ZJ: These examples show how data ecosystems can be applied to drive innovation and create real change on a micro and macro level.
Navigating and mastering complex data ecosystems in change is not exactly a simple task. What we need to do is open and share key data and cooperate on analysis and interpretation, such as by publishing data in standardized machine-readable formats. Ready-to-use platforms, along the lines of off-the-shelf “sustainability clouds,” will also prove to be phenomenal accelerators.
How will data and data ecosystems help shape the future?
ZJ: From our own experience – and backed up by the findings of our Capgemini Research Institute – we see that the trailblazers, the “data masters,” know that the key to leading is through data ecosystems. Being an active player within these ecosystems brings them relevant, high-quality external data that bolsters their own – providing a clear road to getting much more value out of data. On top of all that, it requires a holistic view on how to participate in data ecosystems, how to collaborate (or not) on what data, and how to do it in a truly sustainable, ethical way.
Data thus becomes the new, shiny corporate asset that shapes a better future. I call that a sunny perspective.
Be sure not to miss Capgemini’s CTO, Ron Tolido, during Ignite Talks opening day, September 21 at 16:50 CEST: The Technology Shaping the Industrial Future: Where Do You Place Your Bets? Register here for free virtual access.