Adapting to Change: Finding Opportunity in Crucible Moments

By Jason Rushin

Published on June 7, 2023

A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity while an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty, or so the saying goes. When the difficulty turns into a seemingly insurmountable challenge — a crucible moment — the successful optimist will recognize it quickly and take appropriate action, adapting to change to find success. Recognizing it — and even capitalizing on it — requires data.

Uncertainty reigns

These days, planning a dinner out can be as complicated as planning a global business acquisition. News of supply chain issues, inflation, rising interest rates, falling stock prices, and other concerns remain in the headlines as the pandemic continues to rear its disruptive head. Goldman Sachs experts say there’s about a 30 percent chance that the United States will enter a recession within the next year. Obviously, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. As these issues continue to swirl, many business leaders will suggest pulling back, waiting to see what happens, and minimizing exposure to risk. But recognizing the opportunity in uncertainty is what separates the winners from the pack. As the authors of a Harvard Business Review article, “Roaring Out of Recession” note, three years after the Great Recession of 2007–2009, the most recent period of global economic instability, 9% of companies didn’t simply recover — they flourished, outperforming competitors by at least 10% in sales and profit growth. Now is a crucible moment. It’s a difficult time that has the potential to substantially change everything. Silicon Valley VC firm Sequoia Capital agrees, pointing to all the uncertainty and change in the world as proof. That’s not much of a stretch given all the doom and gloom out there. But how do the unfolding events impact your business? Which budgets do you cut and where do you invest? How can you possibly know what tomorrow will bring?

Recognizing the crucible moment

Back to planning a dinner out. A restaurant experience of 2019 is much different than one today. Pandemic lockdowns and social distancing — the crucible moment — forced restaurants to quickly adopt new business tactics. Today, you can order takeout and delivery from nearly every restaurant. Menus are online. Payments are touchless. Counterspace is dedicated to delivery drivers and pick-up customers. Those that recognized the pandemic as a crucible moment — both restaurants and industry solution providers — quickly adapted and were able to continue operations and eventually grow. But about 70,000 restaurants and bars did not, and they’ve permanently closed.

Adapting to change

Realism is critical during a crucible moment. Take a moment, admit that the situation is happening, and then start to adapt. Quickly. Sequoia recommends “discipline rather than regret.” Pulling back and waiting out the storm only leaves you in a weaker position today and without the resources or products to win tomorrow. But which levers do you pull? Obviously, your data will tell you. Fortunately, you likely have enough data available to make decisions, unlike during the Great Recession. The challenge, however, is ensuring you can find the data you need, it’s the correct data, and you fully understand the data. A data catalog will boost your confidence here. When you’re confident in the data, you’re confident in what the data is telling you, which leads to confident decisions. The data then helps you see potential opportunities. As you track them, you’ll start to see trends, understand the timing, and know when to act. You’ll also have the confidence to guide the company, motivate your team, know where to invest, and know where to change. This is discipline rather than regret. Discipline to confront reality and realize the opportunities. Discipline to trust the data and act with confidence. Trust in your data is key. Hulu, the video subscription service, provides a good example. The company deals with billions of rows of data every hour. They use that data to guide the business and define the viewing experience. But, making those kinds of decisions, ones that could make or break the business, requires trust in the data. Hulu is using Alation’s data catalog to build the foundation for that trust.

Finding opportunity in speed

Sequoia says that, in a crucible moment, if a business activity is not driving revenue growth, saving money, or reducing risk, it’s “fluffy.” Enabling easier access to more data is how organizations can boost engagement with data, proactively perceive and manage risks, and quickly spot the trends and anomalies that point toward opportunity. Speed is critical during such a crucible moment. You might not have the time or resources to slowly evaluate and experiment across multiple options. Yet having trusted data, alongside data access in a self-service environment, can give you that speed. Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) used self-service data access as a way to accelerate time-to-market for new products. ARC is a key intermediary between airlines and travel companies such as Expedia, settling transactions such as refunds, exchanges, and cancellations. It also sells business intelligence and other data products to travel industry customers, and with over 50 years’ worth of data, they have a lot of insights to offer. To bring new products to market, ARC relied on the knowledge of its workers. That slowed progress and, when a worker left the company, their knowledge was lost. So, ARC worked to make data more accessible across domains while capturing tribal knowledge in the data catalog; this reduced the subject-matter-expertise bottlenecks during product development and accelerated higher quality analysis. In addition to an AWS S3 Data Lake and Snowflake Data Cloud, ARC also chose Alation Data Catalog. Alation now helps data users at ARC quickly find and connect to the data they need to speed time-to-market for new products. Project teams can use Alation to conduct their own research and capture individuals’ domain expertise, eliminating the loss of knowledge when people retire or leave the company.

Finding opportunity in collaboration

The energy industry is in the midst of an ongoing crucible moment: the shift to renewable energy. More and more countries, consumers, and companies are recognizing the need to move to renewable energy while maintaining a world entrenched in fossil fuels. Vattenfall, a Swedish power company, is on a quest to enable “fossil-free living within one generation.” It’s working to decarbonize electrical generation and it needs to recognize opportunities that may lay years ahead. Yet Vattenfall operates across several countries and multiple business areas, which adds to the complexity of its mission (and the number of its data silos). To find the opportunities within its data, Vattenfall chose Alation Data Catalog. The company curates metadata from its many business units into the catalog to facilitate data search and discovery across the organization. A business glossary also helps define standard terminology to ensure all users have a common understanding of critical business terms. Subject-matter experts can also share their expertise through articles in the catalog to ease the transfer of knowledge throughout the company. “Alation is democratizing our data,” says Sebastian Kaus, data governance lead at Vattenfall. “It’s bringing people together to collaborate to solve our business problems.” Using the catalog, Vattenfall has already found ways to improve the lifespan of assets through predictive maintenance, for example.

Embracing your crucible moment with Alation

The common thread between Hulu, ARC, Vattenfall, and similar organizations is recognizing an oncoming crucible moment and then — rather than making panic-driven, short-term decisions — using data to identify the opportunities. However, they all had to find, identify, democratize, and utilize the information and institutional knowledge spread across people and datasets. Alation Data Catalog provides the platform to change how you leverage data to improve your outcomes, whether it’s today’s team meeting or tomorrow’s industry-defining event. It helps you discover relevant data, understand what it means, and connect it to the people and projects critical to your business success. To learn more, sign up for one of our weekly demos to see how Alation can help you prepare for your next crucible moment.

  • Uncertainty reigns
  • Recognizing the crucible moment
  • Adapting to change
  • Finding opportunity in speed
  • Finding opportunity in collaboration
  • Embracing your crucible moment with Alation
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