If Ferrari built a UFO, what would it look like? See left…
I am an evangelist for data enabled transformation. I truly believe it’s the way to a better, faster commercial organisation and a better society. I’m also a Ferrari fan, so last week a very special day merged my favourite topics together for unexpected inspiration.
Wednesday 15 November was the first day of Big Data London (#BigDataLDN), a two day event in Kensington, packed full of industry speakers and keen participants in the data agenda. Vendors demonstrated the latest technology that heaved with enormous potential and crowds packed into event theatres, eager to hear how to use it.
I dashed out at lunchtime…
Down the road The Design Museum was launching a retrospective looking at Ferrari design innovation over the past 70 years. The headline event was a presentation by Flavio Manzoni, the SVP of Ferrari Design. In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes, he was as cool as you’d expect.
Design Inspiration and Philosophy
Flavio described his early inspiration to be a car designer. He’d expected to sketch the Jetson dream that we’d all bought into; aero inspired forms gliding above the ground between space age cities that reached into the skies. But he landed into an automotive industry taking the easy route. Companies endlessly riffing directly on loved icons of previous eras (witness the New Beetle, Mini, Fiat 500) or scaling an existing design up and down the market segments. Luckily, progression and promotion meant he got the chance to change the direction.
The Ferrari LaFerrari
In 2013 Ferrari launched the LaFerrari, the definitive Ferrari technically possible at that time. Design of the LaFerrari was brought in house to Flavio’s team, ending the long run of models styled by externally by Pininfarina. Rather than the safe bet of nostalgic recreation of the past he gazed into the future and was inspired again by the potential of what technology might deliver. He chose to consider new ideas and draw on design heritage as themes, not as templates. In so doing the pretty, smiling face perpetuated from the iconic early Ferraris of the 1950s was also set aside.
To free himself of traditional influences, Flavio looked to futurism in a different category, science fiction, for inspiration. You can see the shape of his envisioned UFO (see lead image) laid directly onto the mid engined cars that Ferrari now produces, the long nose reaching forward and the wings curving round behind the cockpit and down to the rear wheels. When the LaFerrari nose needed to support twin aerofoils, the nose cone of the Dino 156 F1 car of 1961 provided an inspirational theme.
Many consider that the best design comes from forms defined closely by their function. Flavio believes that in Italian design this cannot be isolated from an eye for artistry, a consideration for style. He demonstrated this with the rear of the Ferrari Enzo FXX and the LaFerrari FXXK. Both present the same functional needs and components. The Enzo was constructed by engineers (in red) for the purpose, LaFerrari was styled between engineers and designers to balance function with beauty.
Many companies looking to transform and take advantage of data will face similar challenges to Flavio Manzoni and Ferrari.
1) The Transformers Dilemma
Successful companies can be stuck in the classic trap that stifles data transformation as much as design innovation. Small tweaks to the familiar (evolution) are much easier and safer to consider than something entirely new (revolution). For some, too deep into their current model, they won’t even acknowledge that there might be another way. The paradox is that what seems like the least risky way forward is also shown to have been the most risky once a fresh contender opens a new route direct to your customer.
Transformation needs a fresh point of view as Flavio provided for the LaFerrari, a passionate strategic vision of what could be and a plan to get there. When data maturity is generally low, the fresh insight of a new role such as Chief Data Officer can provide data leadership for an organisation. By looking to the future and reimagining new uses for existing assets, opportunities to shape and drive a new organisation will emerge.
2) Design a Structure to Drive Performance from Data
Flavio needed a new, more aerodynamic nose for LaFerrari and had to replace the existing pretty face to suit the demands of performance.
A data enabled business will need a new shape to fully benefit from a new set of possibilities. Grafting new capabilities onto an existing structure can generate short term wins but lead to longer term structural weaknesses if not properly integrated. The new corporate style should recognise heritage but not be trapped within it.
Boot strapping data and systems or spiralling complex matrix organisations with overlapping responsibilities all eventually conspire to fail. The proper use of collated enterprise data will drive better, faster decisions. Analytics and data science will solve horizontal problems that go across a company, regardless of vertical function or department. Careful positioning of data and analytics capability to support the entire business will need to take place or the opportunities will always be constrained. Widely accessible Centres of Excellence and a corporate data lake will be a minimum requirement.
3) Data-Dynamics – Flow Data Like Air
The La Ferrari carefully shapes the air around and through its body to ensure maximum benefit and efficiency. The same air that pins the front to the ground loops around the car to also feed the engine and provide cooling.
Data transformation requires an understanding of data concepts and practices allied to high commercial awareness. The data strategy must compliment the corporate strategy by sculpting data that flows effectively to keep an organisation stable but also fuel it for performance.
Data should therefore flow through and around an organisation. It can serve many purposes if the flow is well conceived. But if it starts from a blunt shape, a flawed existing premise, dynamic efficiency can never be achieved.
4) Commercial Artistry is Customer Centricity
Flavio balanced the design of the rear of his car by working with engineers to blend technical requirements into functional beauty.
Data transformation can sound like a technical subject. Indeed, a CIO and his technical team would often jump quickly to own it when transformation is started.
But the primary challenges are people and culture, not technology. Artistry here is vital to shape blunt technical requirements with customer engagement and empowerment of decision makers. This functional beauty will drive commercial performance. The technical IT function is vital to transformation success but should be coordinated by commercial business needs.
Designing Your Definitive, Data Driven Organisation
If you’re going to build the definitive, data driven version of your company, as LaFerrari is to Ferrari, would you start with what you already had? Or by considering what would be possible if you started with an eye to developing technology and anticipated breakthroughs?
- First, work out why you are doing this work. What do you want to achieve? What is your company strategy?
- Ensure you have the future vision and design skills available. If you don’t have a data knowledgeable CEO then you’ll need a CDO (Chief Data Officer).
- Design your own UFO. Considering a suitable parallel will help to break with past constraints before bringing it back to where you will implement.
- Structure your organisation and your data flow together to ensure they work collaboratively to drive a performing business
- Keep the artistic balance in mind. Look for the functional beauty in your organisation that will deliver for the customer and commercial success, not only the technical requirements.
- Look for solutions in your own heritage but don’t be afraid to shut off things that can’t support the future or force you into unnecessary constraints.
A half-hearted attempt at transformation births a stunted reality from a beautiful vision. The LaFerrari is a stunning blend of heritage and cutting edge technology, true to its brand but focused firmly on the future. Conceived and built to be the best it could be, it has been highly successful. Why would you settle for less for your organisation?
Hear more from Pete at Business Analytics Innovation & Tech Fest 2018.
About the Author
Pete Williams is a data evangelist and Head of Analytics and Insight at pladis Global. Before joining pladis, Peter was head of enterprise analytics at Marks and Spencer. In 2017 he was ranked number 6 on the renowned DataIQ top 100 list which profiles the most influential people in data-driven businesses. He is also author of The Decision Playbook.
Image credit: Concept: Flavio Manzoni; 3D model: Guillaume Vasseur; Rendering & Post Production: Billy Galliano