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Hungry for data, thirsty for time

Awash in data and opportunities: Why data professionals must move up the corporate food chain.

By Heine Krog Iversen

Can an organization satisfy its newly enabled users’ data hunger while simultaneously quenching information technology’s thirst for time? Image © Sean Prior | 123rf.com

Can an organization satisfy its newly enabled users’ data hunger while simultaneously quenching information technology’s thirst for time? Image © Sean Prior | 123rf.com

Organizations of all sizes and types are awash in data possibilities, yet most of them cannot capitalize on the potential for a variety of reasons. The good news, however, is that with the right decisions and focus, these possibilities can turn quickly into realized opportunities.

Business users in these organizations are hungry for comprehensive, contextual and timely data on which to make decisions. The process of “idea creation, data gathering, decision” is a motivational force for economic development in all organizations. The key to effectively implementing this is the smooth democratization of access to data. Can, in one fell swoop, an organization satisfy its newly enabled users’ data hunger while simultaneously quenching information technology’s (IT) thirst for time? That’s the challenge.

As organizations strive for data agility, breaking down internal barriers to data democratization is essential. To stretch the metaphor, dynamic organizations must be able to simultaneously eat and drink. Data democratization and the ensuing benefits are not an episodic or ephemeral phenomenon for the organization; instead, they are fundamental and constant elements of future success.

Data infrastructure technology has come of age and is ready to be deployed and exploited in the service of data agility. It is imperative for all organizations to create a plan and chart a clear course of action. It’s time to banish both hunger and thirst.

Most C-level executives by now have recognized that becoming a data-driven company is a priority to their success and that it plays an instrumental role in increasing profit and growth. As technology continues to push the speed of change, we can be assured that this speed of change will continue to increase even faster, and will put even greater pressure on companies to adjust.

The amount of IT systems in place is growing, and the average lifecycle of each system is being lowered dramatically. For instance, more and more organizations are trying to keep up by implementing scrum and agile approaches to their implementations.

Another way to look at this is that business organizations are putting pressure on IT, and getting more work accomplished in less time demands having data as needed, when needed. Businesses also mandate that new systems are put into the landscape, forcing IT to know and understand these systems at the speed of light. If IT can’t deliver, companies just bypass IT and turn to cloud offerings.

All these new systems and constant change of systems puts pressure on the way organizations build and maintain a governed platform for data analysis. When you add in big data, IoT and all the social data that flows around the business, we can now see that companies are looking for help to provide organization, quality and cost reduction around these systems.

The need for speed and the current increasing workload forces data professionals to get out of their comfort zone. Companies that continue to operate as they have over the last 20 years will not survive.

Democratizing Data Analysis and Decision-making

Big data and social data, along with other data systems and applications, are driving the intelligent enterprise movement. For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are now an integrated part of almost every organization’s marketing system. Organizations need to monitor what people are saying about them (the unstructured part), and they need to monitor their followers and how this varies based on what they are doing. It is also important to connect all this data to the financials to measure the cost per follower or what is called “the structured part.”

Data analysis is now becoming a top priority in selecting go-to-market strategies, as well as in the big picture strategy to obtain market leadership. Therefore, companies expected to climb to the top are those that combine internal and external data.

Going forward, IT budgets are expected to be taken over by the chief marketing officer or the chief financial officer. This will give IT less impact regarding decisions on what IT will be used, yet IT will have to run and support all these systems. Meanwhile, numerous recent published reports outline in detail the emergence of data discovery, and why organizations must now consider a governed data discovery hub as their central platform for democratizing data analysis and decision-making.

Current research also shows that speed in delivering new IT systems or new platforms for data analysis is becoming more important than trying to cut costs. If you believe the proposition that speed is paramount for survival and growth (and I do, by the way), then the only way forward is to empower business users and liberate IT, which can easily be accomplished with data democratization (as long as governance is ensured).

Numerous companies are now leveraging data democratization platforms to improve operational performance by saving time, making better decisions and redeploying staff for more strategic, benefit-oriented initiatives. Further, companies are seeing better data-driven decisions by improving the line of business with big data and social data initiatives.

Having governed and localized data discovery at the fingertips of all business users plays an essential role for organizations trying to lower costs, improve efficiency and enhance data quality. Today, with the deluge of data and the advent of big data and social data, it is imperative to re-engineer the enterprise in this fashion. Companies that do have a much greater chance at gaining a competitive advantage and even survival, while those that don’t risk dying of hunger or thirst.

Heine Krog Iversen (hki@timextender.com) is the CEO of TimeXtender, a software vendor dedicated to democratizing access to corporate data through Discovery Hub, and the largest provider of data warehouse automation software for the Microsoft SQL Server.