Big Data analytics is a culture which can be embedded subtly across an organisation.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and award-winning writer and journalist Malcolm Gladwell were among the leading figures at software and middleware company Tibco's TIBCONOW conference in San Francisco who suggested that making an analytical mindset pervasive across an organisation was where the Big Data battle would be won against competitors, rather than any set of technological tools owned by one departmental silo.
"We are driving digital tools and digital engagement but we still have to let data analytics and Big Data permeate every part of the company," Pepsi chief executive Nooyi said.
"Information is a very powerful edge, we need to bring in that capability and extract more knowledge. One of the big changes is how do we change middle management and senior management to more data and analytic sensitive?"
Big Data leadership
The leadership responsibilities of the CEO are thus to outline this as a strategy while learning on the job to transform the culture of the company, explained the chief executive of the global drinks manufacturer which employs more than 250,000 people.
"Leadership has to embrace management and recognise that maintaining the status quo will only take you backwards," she said.
"The CEO has got to become a storyteller and transmit the message; then you get the tailwind to move the company forwards.
"The inner workings of a company have to change, but as CEO you have to perform while you transform. We have to embrace analytics and the digital world much more; be learning CEOs and learning C-suite executives by going back to school.
"Today's leaders have to do the impossible. Paint a picture of the future, while taking people along to the promised land. You have to do it in public eye, with one foot on accelerator and one foot on the brake, but you also can't make any mistakes."
Hampshire-born journalist for The New Yorker and author of best-sellers Outliers, The Tipping Point, and David and Goliath, Gladwell also chipped in on analytics when he said that it was the people rather than the technology that would be the differentiator between companies.
Analytics as an attitude
"The technology is there, but the ability to utilise that piece of technology begins with an attitude," Gladwell said.
"Don't depend on technology or expertise because transformation is a state of mind; transformation beings with an attitude."
Popularising analytics, making it less scary and too difficult for people not to utilise – was one method of doing this according to Tibco's CTO Matt Quinn in a discussion about the acquisition of Jaspersoft earlier this year and the latest version of Tibco's Fast Data platform, a tool which aims to deploy analytics in other web-based apps.
He said that as a word, analytics can scare people. They can assume it's something that will be something confusing and difficult but they might already be utilising it in the context of their job just by looking at Monday morning reports.
"We've tried to popularise analytics and embed it inside the app," Quinn said.
"Stepping outside the app breaks the cultural mould. We want analytics to live everywhere; inside applications and across applications.
"A cultural shift has to go on; it's not just about the technology."
Quinn said that Procter & Gamble was a good case study of an organisation which was able to shift away from a culture that focused strictly on data governance and data management.
Business as a social network
Tibco has saved the technical details of their business intelligence tools for in-depth breakout sessions, the software vendor instead focusing on culture, strategy and leadership in their major keynote addresses. These also included a video appearance by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who discussed brushing up on his Shakespeare to hone his leadership skills, and how he's trying to create a new energy at Microsoft to get the company "marching in a particular direction".
And while no mentions of Tibco's enterprise social networking product tibbr - a tool used by both KPMG and Thomson Reuters - has been made, social was not off the agenda as founder and CEO Vivek Ranadivé said he believed that organisations should go a step further than being social businesses – company owners should instead think of their business as a social network.
"Last year when I bought the Sacramento Kings I didn't just buy a basketball team, I bought a social network," he said.
"Businesses of the future will increasingly think of themselves as a social network married to perishable inventory."