Data-Driven Firm Productivity: The Importance of Technological Architecture

51 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2021 Last revised: 29 Apr 2022

See all articles by Ruiqing Cao

Ruiqing Cao

Harvard Business School

Marco Iansiti

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Date Written: February 24, 2022


Large traditional corporations have been undergoing digital transformation since the late 2015, but investments in new generations of data analytics and machine learning yield largely uneven productivity benefits. We show that firms’ data architecture capabilities are complementary to the adoption of machine learning and data analytics, and are crucial to driving productivity gains from technological innovation. We use a detailed survey to derive separate indexes for three distinct architectural components. We report three findings: data platform and analytics/ML architecture are complementary to machine learning adoption; poor data platform capability is associated with fragmented ML adoption and lower productivity, but fully developed data architecture capabilities are associated with larger scope and variety of ML functionalities; cloud architecture is complementary to demand for data analytics skills. Empirical evidence also suggests that large U.S. corporations are early adopters of cloud and data analytics, and late adopters of machine learning technology.

Suggested Citation

Cao, Ruiqing and Iansiti, Marco, Data-Driven Firm Productivity: The Importance of Technological Architecture (February 24, 2022). Harvard Business School Research Paper Series No. 21-122, Available at SSRN: or

Ruiqing Cao (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marco Iansiti

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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