The ability to unlock the power of data is often seen as the key to business success. But first you have to find the data, and that’s getting increasingly difficult in today’s complex environments.
“Having the data is only part of the story,” said Anthony Nornabell, Director of HPE Canada’s GreenLake Cloud Services at a CanadianCIO Virtual Roundtable. In today’s architectures, data may be in the data centre, at the edge, or in the cloud, he said. “You have to understand where the data is to be able to access it and get insights out of it.”
Roundtable participants said they’re keen for their organizations to become more data-driven. “It’s about putting data in the hands of people who need it to make timely decisions,” said a technology executive in the financial sector. However, like many others, they acknowledged that they’re grappling with various obstacles to success.
Five challenges to gaining value from data
The CIOs said they face a lengthy list of challenges to pull business insights from their data, but they focused on five key themes:
- Large data sets in different places. The volume of data overwhelming, noted participants; the fact that it resides in many different systems only increases the complexity. “In large organizations with different business units, it’s natural to see siloes for data and analytics,” said Dilip Ramachandran, Senior Director of Marketing with AMD.
- Data quality. A huge challenge is harmonizing the collection of data for analysis. One CIO noted that his organization spent 18 months on getting different business units to agree on the definition of each data field.
- Resources. “There’s a lot of movement in the labour market right now,” said Nornabell. “It’s a real challenge to retain the skill-sets to manage the infrastructure.” Moreover, with trained and experienced resources being so limited and difficult to hire and retain, it’s critical they are focused on the right tasks and top business priorities.
- Data literacy. Participants say they still struggle to convince people of the power and truth in data. “People still want to see the data confirm their expectations,” said one technology leader. “The power of data is that it exposes hidden patterns. It’s about data telling us what we don’t know, not what we already know.”
- Data sensitivity and compliance. The classification of sensitive data can become a major issue if it isn’t done properly. “To comply with regulations, you need to know where the sensitive data is,” noted one CSO.
Avoiding the data swamp
To gain more control over their data, several participants said they’re focusing on creating a centralized data set to act as the single source of truth. As noted by one executive in the financial sector, the ultimate goal is to get a 360-degree view of the customer and all the products they have purchased.
Technology allows organizations to access their data, wherever it is, said Nornabell. For example, the GreenLake platform delivers the cloud experience whether it’s in an infrastructure’s edges, in colocations, data centres or the cloud. “Organizations can have the agility of cloud with the security of on-premises facilities,” he said. “They don’t have to compromise cloud agility when they need data on premises. They are in control and can make strategic decisions about where their data resides and is processed.”
It’s also essential to establish clear ethics and governance procedures. Even with centralized data, people tend to extract the data and then work in siloes, noted one executive. A strong governance program establishes clear rules for how “Governance with centralized data is so important to ensure everyone trusts one data set,” he said. “If the governance is not set right, those large data lakes turn into swamps.”