Research firm IDC predicts that the global datasphere, which is the amount of information created, captured, or replicated, will grow from 33 zettabytes (ZB) in 2018 to 175 ZB by 20251.
It’s this never-ending process of information creation that fuels digital business. IT departments and data scientists are charged with helping their organisations develop game changing insights into customer demands, market opportunities and enterprise priorities.
Such is the level of demand for data that analyst firm Gartner says business leaders require an ever-increasing velocity and scale of analysis in terms of both processing information and providing access to innovation.
Yet recognising that you need more data quickly is simply a starting point. Organisations that really want to make the most of data, both now and in the future, will need to create a nuanced approach to data collection, analysis and exploitation.
Data consolidation is key
While business leaders recognise the value of data, they don’t necessarily appreciate how hard it is to analyse the right information at the right time. There’s a lack of consideration about how information might be used by different people in different circumstances.
Gartner says too many business units undertake data or analytics projects individually2 . This isolated way of working means data resides in silos and is only prescribed for one purpose to a particular team, such as understanding regional sales figures.
That kind of data analysis has a valuable purpose. But what about if the business wants to delve deeper? What about if the finance team wants to compare those regional sales figures with other countries? What about if the marketing team wants to take that comparative regional breakdown and investigate how it can sell products via enticing deals?
If data is locked away in silos, then it’s far too difficult to create deeper, cross-organisation relationships. That inability to collaborate effectively hampers business growth. As data is the key to creating a competitive advantage, then the proliferation of information silos is a short-cut to failure.
Improving data access across an organisation
The task now is for business leaders is to find a better route. Organisations that want to make the most of the ever-increasing amount of information need to restructure how they exploit knowledge. They must break down the walls between departments, so that data is accessible for anyone who needs it at any time.
Reaching that point is going to require a significant shift in mindset for most organisations. Right now, many employees fixate on their current challenge – they focus almost single-mindedly on how data can provide an answer to a single question at one point in time.
If they have an effective data-management policy, they’ll also think about how this information is stored and backed-up. These considerations are absolutely critical for any
organisation that wants to use its information in a secure and governable manner.
Yet these considerations should also be seen as table stakes. Detailed international and local regulatory requirements, like the General Data Protection Regulation come with the risk of severe financial penalties, meaning every employee should manage data safely and securely as a matter of course. That’s an IT challenge to some degree, but also a business processpoint.
But what if you want to go deeper? What if you want to use that well-managed data to create cross-business collaborations that will gain your business a competitive advantage?
Then the answer must be to focus on how data is recalled, presented, and contextualised, so that the insight you create is useful not just today but also tomorrow.
It may even lead to businesses of the future having an analyst within their team, or someone able to be seconded to support a data-first project. Whichever way, the data will
be more greatly accessible at a function or team level, than before.
Generating comprehensive insights
Bear in mind that the sources of data will continue to increase. Research firm IDC says the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already contributing to significant market growth in tech spending. Within five to ten years, IDC says new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality will expand to represent over 25% of IT spending3 .
With that growth in mind, now is the time to think about how your organisation recalls, presents, and contextualises its information. You will need to take data management to the next level of development – one where the cross-business insight you create is drawn from multiple structured and unstructured data sources.
In short, to achieve a higher level of data management prowess, you need to elevate the technology and process to a point where users don’t even have to think about current
protection considerations such as backup and recovery. This new approach creates a single and verifiable version of the truth where users have easy access to the data they need when they need it. That is a truly digital organisation.