Data storage problems and how to fix them

Digitising data storage can be a daunting task and some of the biggest barriers businesses face are with infrastructure, costs, security, compliance and people, says Kubair Shirazee, founder of AgiliTea

Digitising data opens a new world of innovation and competitive advantage for businesses. By leveraging data, you can create an ecosystem of products based on your and your customers’ data. If we think of Salesforce and the Open Data initiatives, we can see their strength has come from providing access to their platform and data, thereby creating an ecosystem of complementary products and services.

Data is the lifeblood of a business. It drives the decisions we make, the way we work, our people, and how we drive efficiencies and help customers access our services. Organisations must understand the importance of their data, how to use it, who is using it, how to manage it, and how to store it.

When undertaking the journey to digitisation, it’s important to consider the issues and challenges and more importantly – know how to avoid them.

In my experience when looking at digitising data storage a lot of organisations feel it is easier to start afresh, but there is a lot of value buried within historic data and electronic files that shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

A great place to start is by thinking about why the data was created in the first place, who is responsible for it, who needs to use it, why the organisation needs it, and how the data will facilitate decision making.

It can be a daunting task and some of the biggest barriers businesses face are with infrastructure, costs, security, compliance and, of course, people.

#1 – Effective data management and storage

It’s wise not to attempt a massive data overhaul all at once, especially before you’ve considered what data is valuable, how and where you will store the data and investigated the different options and models available.

It all depends on the scope of transformation and the state the organisation is in. For start-ups, it’s a green field and the experience is as good as the plan and its periodic inspection and adaptation. For organisations with historic data to migrate, it can get complex. I have experienced both and the key was to have identified what data is valuable, a clear cut off date and policy on how far back we digitise.

The further back we go on historic paper records the bigger the gaps may be, and that affects patterns we can inspect in the data. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the right data reaches the right person at the right time.

It’s worth considering that in current times where, more and more people are working from home and talent has taken to a nomad lifestyle so remote access to data is a must to attract, retain, and enable talent to flourish. 

Digital transformation has supercharged our efficiency and digital records is an aspect of that transformative journey. Files that took hours to locate can now be found in seconds. It’s like swapping a horse-drawn cart for a spaceship.

#2 – Overcoming cost barriers in digital transformation

I think for most businesses the costs associated with undergoing digital transformation can be one of the biggest barriers. The best way to manage those costs is by doing the work upfront to explore all the options available and assess what will work best for your specific business needs.

If you are unsure on where to start, consult an expert to determine the best solutions and view the initial costs as an investment. Digital transformation of data brings the benefits of creating efficiency and timesaving and with those, reduced costs.

The long-term benefit can far outweigh the upfront costs. Digital systems are typically faster and more efficient than manual systems. This can result in a significant reduction in the time it takes to perform tasks, such as searching for a particular record. For example, a digital system could quickly find a customer’s file with a simple search, whereas in a manual system, someone would need to physically search through potentially hundreds or thousands of files.

#3 – Robust data management, security, and compliance processes

It is important for businesses to have strong and well-documented business processes related to data management, security, and compliance. These processes play a crucial role in creating an audit trail, understanding access and usage patterns, demonstrating governance, and ensuring security levels.

Organisations should maintain their own processes, procedures, and certifications, even when working with trusted providers. This dual approach ensures a robust level of data management, security, and compliance, even while leveraging external expertise.

#4 – Fostering a culture of digital transformation and open-mindedness

Digital transformation isn’t just about data, it’s about transforming the organisational culture too.

Resistance to change from people is always a major hurdle, sometimes it’s a few folks, sometimes the resistance comes from the majority. It’s prudent to keep an open mind on tools and platforms and not get locked into any walled garden with your data.

Digitising records reduces the risk of human error and ensures data consistency across different platforms and databases, and with that a business can scale.

During transformation at a major retailer many moons ago, the ability to check stock levels through a digital inventory system across all stores in real time was a game changer for them, beyond the obvious benefits, it allowed them to analyse data from individual stores and implement customised just in time inventory for individual stores, combining their inventory data and their CRM enabled them to experiment with personalisation.

#5 – Guiding principles for a tailored digital transformation strategy

Each organisation embarking on a digital transformation journey will face unique challenges and have different priorities depending on sector and what stage they are at in their journey.

Listen to your people, co-plan with your people, train your people, be patient, and trial and experiment with tools that fit your business needs, culture, and capabilities.

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