Whilst data has always played a key role in informing decisions, previously much of this data came from transactional databases and unstructured sources like email. However, in a digital era, critical information often resides outside of company perimeters in conversations on social media, CRM software and cloud storage applications.
This is a trend that has been happening for decades as sensitive data proliferates across systems and applications from mobile devices to USB devices and cloud applications. For businesses, the challenge has been keeping up.
Business, not IT, owns data in the enterprise
Marc Benioff recently proclaimed that ‘for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business. Our greatest challenge is making sense out of data. We need a new generation of executives to understand and lead through data.’
Like people, money and property, data is a business asset. Organisations that are serious about using data as an asset are recognising that lines-of-business need to collaborate with IT on data requirements to create a culture of business data ownership.
> See also: Beware of the data lake fallacy, warns Gartner
Data governance processes that enforce business rules, definitions and use of data are needed for IT to deliver the right information. We are already seeing a culture shift in many organisations with the recruitment of new senior individuals such as Chief Data Officers. Their responsibility is to protect and secure personal data, but also to exploit the data assets their organisation possesses.
The measure of success, therefore, would be a tangible impact on revenue streams through improved service, better customer acquisition and innovative products and services all formulated as a result of exploiting the data assets they own.
Ultimately, the insights and intelligence from having access to data can be powerful. However, no shiny analytic application will answer all of your long unanswered questions. Instead, success starts with the fundamentals of having the right processes, people, and technology to integrate, cleanse, secure, and deliver data to drive business insights and shareholder value.
Practice good data hygiene
Today, businesses need to be incredibly agile when it comes to tapping into, and making sense, of a huge volume of brand new data sources. With the volume and variety of data growing ever stronger, businesses need to deliver the right data into the CRM, SFA, HR or accounting systems that are used to make everyday business decisions. Yet often organisations struggle to get to grips with what goes on under the covers and connect the relevant data.
When data in business applications is missing, out of date, or incorrect, then users will most often blame the application first. However, what most users forget is that value of data has a direct correlation with time. It may have been perfectly accurate and useful when you captured it, but aspects are almost certain to change over time. Most of the time, it comes down to how data is integrated into the app by IT.
As data moves from one system to another and is often combined with data from other applications, the chances of creating errors in the data increase dramatically. As a result, the process, architecture and tools required to collect the data and keep it fresh, are equally as important as the business applications that support front, mid office and back end functions.
Having the right data
Businesses have already recognised that having the right data fuels business success. In today’s digital, social, mobile, and cloud-driven world, data of varying types is being created more every second. People talk about zetabytes vs. petabytes of data. Analysing large mountains of data is not new and the likelihood is that if your role is in sales, marketing or a service department, then your productivity depends on the ability to quickly move data in and out of the business and its ecosphere of applications.
Yet, with the volume and variety of data growing ever stronger, competitive advantage depends on the ability of a business to integrate, process, store and analyse data at speed. Managing data and mastering data governance is becoming one of the most important pillars for companies successfully leading in the cloud age. For example, having the facility to integrate, process, and analyse new categories of data with traditional ones is changing how insurance companies calculate risk and how telecommunications firms combat customer churn.
In stark contrast, companies that fail to do so are at risk of becoming a new Blockbuster or Kodak, businesses that didn’t adopt quickly enough. In order to avoid this, organisations need to evaluate those platforms that can support a comprehensive data strategy. One that encapsulates scalability, quality, governance, security, ease of use and flexibility to ensure the most appropriate data processing infrastructure is in place. Whether that is on premise, in the cloud, or most likely a hybrid combination of these.