This article is the Moor Insights & Strategy debut of Robert Kramer, VP & Principal Analyst, Enterprise Data Technologies.
It’s fascinating how art can transcend differences in culture, religion and everyday life around the globe. The work of creatives of all types can unite disparate perspectives to hopefully uncover new understandings. Art is omnipresent, and it can create a bright, creative and dynamic lens for viewing the world. As I’ve discovered, art’s special power applies to business, too—and even to enterprise data, as I’ll explain.
Traveling worldwide gave me an understanding of how art can illuminate life and elicit new reactions in us. As a newly minted MBA, I had the opportunity to live in London. While I lived there, I took an interest in the city’s vast array of creative spaces. Every Saturday, I would take a leisurely walk past my favorite café so my flat white coffee could accompany me to the Tube, with Pimlico Station as my destination. From there, it was an enjoyable short trip into the world of the Tate Gallery—one of the world’s great art museums. That weekly ritual allowed me to view unique exhibits, but more than that it helped me understand the emotional connection of art to everyday life.
Recently, I had a chance to bring my interest in art into the business environment. What I discovered is that art can elicit creativity and spur new conversations in business, just as in other areas of life. In particular, it can help create an emotional connection and a component of trust. Given my own professional focus and my fascination with innovation, I was able to make this connection using enterprise data.
Connecting Enterprise Data with Art
While I served as global head of manufacturing marketing at Atos, a worldwide IT digital transformation company, I created a campaign called The Art of Atos. The campaign, which centered on a real-world exhibit of artworks, offered a unique perspective into the four pillars of the company’s service portfolio: sustainability, digital smart factories, cloud solutions and cybersecurity. Each pillar was represented through art, allowing viewers to form new, expressive associations with our work.
It was natural to focus on data as the interconnect between the artworks and the four pillars of the portfolio. First, consider the critical role data plays in each of the four pillars. Smart factories analyze data streams to predict future outcomes, improve processes and create a more efficient and productive environment. Sustainability requires analyzing mountains of data to calculate the carbon footprint of different processes and formulate strategies to positively affect our planet. Cloud solutions must protect sensitive corporate and customer data while keeping it secure for immediate use anywhere. Cybersecurity analyzes patterns in data to locate malicious entry points, detect attacks and neutralize them.
The exhibit allowed visitors to experience each artist’s unique perspective on this data. The artists that we involved in the project brought their own visions and inspirations that incorporated aspects of the data through bits of code, mechanical devices, 3-D visualizations, prints, CAD drawings, advanced analytics and virtual reality.
As part of the exhibition, artists displayed data renderings—digital representations of physical objects created by data. A few of the artists used physical 3-D models, in one case using data to create a distortion mirror via algorithmic 3-D modeling devised in a CAD program. Another creator employed augmented reality to superimpose a computer-generated image onto the real world. In creating the different artworks, the artists were able to use data elements to provide a more immersive, personalized experience: data tailored the artistic content to each person who viewed the art.
An Unexpected Showcase—and Rave Reviews
My team and I set up The Art of Atos exhibit in Paris, Munich, London and Chennai so customers could attend special events showcasing the art, but also so that our staff could share their enjoyment of the artwork in the daily course of business as they held meetings and hosted customers, prospects and vendors. This allowed the company to stage the four pillars of our platform while creating a different way to develop meaningful conversations.
The response was excellent, with customers raving about the overall creativity of the project and about how our portfolio could be more fully understood through the art. Customers specifically praised the opportunity to be in such an exceptional, beautiful environment without sales pressure. The project helped us use art to form and expand professional relationships beyond the ordinary.
What We Learned from Art Made from Data
Art and data can be complementary in a number of different ways. For example, data art like we included in The Art of Atos exhibit combines visual art and data visualization to create new types of creative presentations—including ones directly representing data connectivity. Interactive installations, including some of those in our exhibit, allow artists to harness live data to create an immersive experience for the audience. There are also processes for transforming data into sound to create soundscapes via what is called data sonification.
Generative art uses algorithms and data to generate artwork. Millions of users have recently become familiar with a form of this through generative AI image programs such as Stable Diffusion, which combines users’ inputs with libraries of images to create incredible new visualizations. Meanwhile, augmented reality and virtual reality can be applied to art by enabling viewers to simulate walking through a gallery in real time. Some artists even use data to aid in the creation of physical sculptures, allowing viewers to experience data art in a tangible 3-D form.
The long and short of it is that data art allows artists to explore exciting possibilities and ways to communicate and connect analytical thinking with creative expression—something that the serious business audience for our exhibit found compelling, and that carried over into more technical conversations.
Reflecting on The Art of Atos project, I am emboldened by its unique theme and vision that created a platform for new conversations. The exhibition was a crowd-pleaser, but more importantly, it provoked new ways of thinking. In my experience as both a customer-facing executive and now an analyst, I think it is vital to help people develop a clearer idea of how change influences innovation and brings the customer closer to us. Whether I’m looking at a J.M.W. Turner painting at the Tate or tunneling into the minutiae of enterprise data management with a client, I believe we should constantly push toward innovation to stimulate growth. The alternative is stagnation.
Life can be complex, and we all sometimes yearn for a simpler linear understanding of what is happening. Data connectivity can also be complex, but as The Art of Atos revealed, art can give us another way to understand and connect with the customer.
The Art of Atos was a memorable recurring experience, like I had every Saturday with my flat white coffee at the Tate Gallery. If you have thoughts on how data intersects with art or any aspect of your business, please leave a comment here or contact me at email@example.com.