Buy more tech – or invest in data?

business data on a computer screen

Written by James Miller, Technical Consultant at Informed Solutions

To leverage your organisations data, should you buy more technology or invest in the data itself?

Do you really understand the value of your data and the cost of not fully exploiting it?

Valuing data as an organisational asset is not a new concept; however, many businesses remain in blissful ignorance of just how much additional leverage they can get from their vast data stores.

The rapid uptake of digital services enabled by big data, internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and elastic cloud capability is literally changing the way we work and the way we live. Imagine just how much more we could do – how the decisions we make could be so much more informed and value driven, if we could bring together multiple data stores across the business in real-time.

The data we have and the way we use it is increasingly core to how businesses make better decisions and deliver more targeted and personalised services. This means that ensuring that your data is ‘interoperable’ and can be used by the business in these new ways is critical to your competitive edge.

What do we mean by data interoperability?  It is basically the ability of your information technologies, systems and data to communicate, exchange information and use that information effectively and seamlessly to drive on-line services and support business functions. Central to creating value from your data, is the principle that as data across systems becomes more interoperable and you can do more with it, the value of that data increases exponentially.

The challenge for most businesses, however, is that their data is not interoperable. That is, it is not captured and stored in ways that allow it to ‘communicate’ with data in other business systems. Historically, many systems were intentionally not interoperable, often because there were vested interests in locking customers into particular software or technologies, or solutions were procured to serve a single department or line of business, rather than the enterprise.

As business increasingly understands just how valuable data is, the good news is that we don’t need to be hamstrung by legacy decisions or even the new systems we build or buy.  Even better, the answer is not necessarily a technology one which requires you to procure even more products.

As with all important structures that you want to build upon, it’s really about going back to basics and getting the foundations right. That is, getting the ‘governance’ of the data in good order.  Focusing on good disciplines, such as defining explicit data governance policies, standards, roles, responsibilities and processes will build your foundations for data reliability and interoperability. Before you are tempted to go out and buy yet more technology products, look at addressing foundation issues such as metadata, taxonomy, data quality, data integrity, data retention, custody, security and privacy across the data lifecycle.

We can go back and retrofit data interoperability to leverage the value of existing data assets, although this can sometimes involve considerable effort and cost, but the most efficient approach will always be to ensure that best practice governance is embedded in the ‘business as usual’ data management processes from the outset. The quickest wins for data interoperability are more effective and timely access to operational insights across the business, supporting better and more confident decision making. Data interoperability now also leverages other opportunities with emerging technologies, such as machine learning and AI capabilities. Accessing these capabilities is not limited to businesses with deep pockets.  Getting your data structured and managed in the right way, enabling it to ‘interoperate’ with other data and systems across your business, provides those essential foundations on which machine learning, automation and AI are built.

So, don’t ignore your data.  In the joined up digital world, data is a tremendous asset that you don’t want your competition to leverage before you do. Managing your data in ways that truly leverage its value and potential – particularly through the new ‘smart’, digital capabilities – is neither onerous nor expensive. It can be as straightforward as making sure your foundations are underpinned by the right open, standards based data governance – sooner rather than later.

This article was originally published here.


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