Navigating The Corporate Quest to Becoming Data-Driven
For years, businesses and organizations have been relying heavily on data.
From the boardroom to the ball field, data is being used everywhere to help executives make smarter, faster decisions. Analyzing and trusting corporate data helps organizations to strategically enter new markets, design innovative products that customers want and need, and surpass the competition. The data revolution is here and the insurgency is getting stronger.
As the number of data sources grow and the volume of data expands exponentially, I find that organizations, in their quest to becoming data-driven, are often overwhelmed with trying to build and manage their data across the enterprise. Despite the enormity of data, having a platform in place to support it now and into the future doesn’t have to be complicated, and frankly, it shouldn’t be.
Based on my work leading a data management platform company, I believe that the vision for a company that’s thirsty to become data-driven should start with the deep-rooted understanding that the people within the corporation who need data are business users. They’re not techies. They’re not the IT staff. So it’s paramount that the system designed for data be developed with simplicity and ease of use in mind, while also establishing safeguards such as privacy, security, and governance.
What organizations need as an overarching blueprint is a self-service analytical environment where business users have data literally at their fingertips to help them make decisions as needed during the workday. In the past, getting access to all-important data would require submission of a job ticket into IT, but who has time for that these days? Sometimes, by the time IT would get around to fulfilling the request, the business user had typically moved on to other important issues. Furthermore, bridging the gap between business and IT frees up the IT staff to do much more important initiatives that could have significant ramifications for progress and the company’s bottom line.
Develop An Integrated Hub For Your Company’s Data
With that in mind, companies should decide from the get-go that they want a structure that is integrated and consolidated into a central platform. This can be accomplished by the use of a central data hub. Having all relevant data flowing in and out of a centralized hub leads to what is known as having “one version of the truth.” This results in better data quality, system simplicity and, most importantly, more accurate reporting and analytics.
The alternative is having multiple locations for storing various data from numerous sources throughout the company. This leads to business users getting inconsistent reports as some of the data is up to date and relevant, while some is quality-deficient and lacks in trustworthiness. This approach defeats the purpose of being data-driven.
When designing a data-driven company, use technology that is all-inclusive, rather than cobbling together multiple development tools and applications. Using a patchwork of tools accentuates complexity, thereby removing us from our goal of simplicity for the everyday business user. There’s another benefit to using an integrated platform as well. When an organization uses multiple tool sets and complex design methodologies, it often needs a larger support team of tech experts or consultants (translation: huge costs) to help build out the system and manage it along the way. An integrated platform reduces these costs.
Don’t Rush To The Grand Finale
A mistake that I find that many organizations make in their pursuit of becoming data-driven is that they dream of the “grand finale.” They want to build the all-inclusive data platform for the company, leading them to engage in everlasting developmental cycles. During this time, costs add up and business users are deprived of access to their data that could make a huge impact in their daily initiatives, months or even years in advance. This is a major blunder that myriad businesses make, as time matters, and wasting it translates into losing dollars.
Rather, an organization would be better suited to build out a data initiative on a smaller scale for use in a functional area and get going. In this scenario, the department users can slowly experiment with their data and start working with it to improve their decision making. With a smaller implementation, management can also look to integrate their data platform into the work culture to more easily manage change.
The business can learn from this small-scale data platform and adapt, continuing to progress in this location, while slowly pursuing an enterprise-wide program. This is a much more feasible model than striving for a rollout of data utopia.
Rely On Your Data, But Not Solely
I believe the future for businesses that are instinctively data-driven is promising. And this has never been truer than today when we consider the power of AI (artificial intelligence).
AI technology continues to mature and can provide a business with a competitive advantage when coupled tightly with data. The more a company feeds AI with new data, the more AI can have an impact in helping an organization anticipate what’s coming across the business landscape. But to properly leverage AI, a company needs to first have a solid data-driven infrastructure in place.
While we understand that many organizations around the world are relying on data insights and predictive analytics to make faster and smarter business decisions, let us not forget that data is only one component in doing so. We must also rely on our minds and our hearts, as humans also have residual data banks, filled with intelligence, intuition and experience. And using our minds and our hearts, along with our data, can provide keen insights in helping us choose the right course of action for our business, for both present day and the undefined future.
This story originally ran on April 29, 2019 in the Forbes Technology Council.