Lions and Tigers and Data, A.I.!

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’ve entered a world of artificial intelligence. Should we be afraid or inspired? Is this a brave new world or the end of the world as we know it?

Recently, there have been plenty of articles and discussions about the power of data and the importance of artificial intelligence.  Depending on the author, these articles either try to create fear for us humans (all jobs will be replaced by technology) or attempt to motivate leaders with the potential to rethink business and create more value. 

We all know there are companies that simply ignore the changes, hiding behind a curtain with a megaphone preaching about the way business used to be. They’ll soon have the curtain pulled back to expose the Great and Powerful Oz. As business leaders, we need to get out from behind the curtain and embrace the possibility of data and AI – not from a perspective of fear, but as an opportunity.

If I only had a brain, a heart, some courage and sensor-based data

As my readers know, I do not believe that humans will be replaced be technology. They will be augmented and liberated by it. I also believe that the glass is half full, the power of motivation, and the possibility of what could be with a better understanding and use of data.

Over the last several months, I have been paying attention to any and all articles around data and AI. There are tons, but here’s one that stood out to me. How Cava Uses Data to Redesign Restaurants, published in Fast Company earlier this year and written by Ben Paynter, was really intriguing.  It described how a casual restaurant chain, Cava Mezze, is using sensors to trap and analyze data in order to drive revenue growth:

  • Sensors to track wait times – The initial data showed that the customer lines were slowed down when the menu board was placed too close to the serving station. When they dug deeper, they found the abundance of menu choices made it hard for people to choose their ingredients. To compensate, they changed where the menus and ingredients were displayed and this improved line speed 10%, creating 12% more capacity in the line.
  • Sensors in seat locations – This activity found that people in an urban setting sat for less time than those in the suburbs. The suburban customers tend to linger. As a result, they increased seating capacity by 30% and boosted revenue by 20% per square foot. Someone call Chipotle and tell them to install some sensors!

Follow the customer journey down the yellow brick road

This made me wonder how B2B companies could use sensors to capture data.

B2B companies have a ton of data. We are all focused on ways to monetize that data, which is a great idea. However, most of the data B2B providers have is about the financials of doing business, or the profile or segments of those we serve.

This article focuses on what I refer to as “data in use.” It’s data that tracks the way we deliver our services and how our customers consume them. I don’t think we understand enough about that process. We don’t track the customer journey very well. How could we use sensors to trap better data to facilitate our understanding of our B2B customer’s journey?

There’s no place like untapped opportunity

In the end, the Cava article made me think we need sensors. I’m not sure what we will find, but I know there are infinite opportunities in front of us when we tap into data this way. The question then becomes: Can we as leaders turn the data into actionable information and revenue improvement like Cava?

One more thing to note: Cava also invested in a data scientist to organize and analyze the data.  So in the end technology is not replacing humans. It is making them smarter and creating new careers. HBR published an article called The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important earlier this year. So if you are nervous about your personal relevance in world of AI, you may want to read this article and take a look at the new skills needed in the data rich world.

Come on Toto; let’s see what we find down the yellow brick road of data. I guarantee it will be a lot more than 1s, 0s and robots.