Change your mindset to tap into the full potential of your data
27-06-2012 - John Hatcher
The world we live in contains a vast amount of digital data which is growing at an unimaginable rate. All this data has the power to enable organisations to do things that were previously impossible. If managed strategically, data gives organisations competitive advantage and opens up huge opportunities. But despite the technology and tools available, organisations are not getting real value from their data, as they are adopting a tactical approach. Instead, formulating a strategy that taps into data’s true potential will impact the business in a game-changing way.
Industry and business demands have driven organisations to evolve their technology and IT infrastructures over the years. Traditionally, organisations have implemented systems on an ad hoc or project basis, investing in more technology to keep pace with change - more servers, databases and applications creating silos of information which are often fragmented. The costs associated with applying the same high availability to all data, combined with the complexity of consolidating data and unifying systems, have led to businesses implementing a patchwork quilt of architectures to manage costs and risks.
To analyse and gain insights from data, organisations are taking a technological approach instead of putting data at the forefront when building their infrastructure. Businesses are also turning to virtualisation to help reduce costs. Virtualising servers and storage assets is really valuable as it increases the utilisation of an IT infrastructure and reduces the volume of redundant systems. While big cost savings can be made and there are numerous benefits, this is not solving the underlying issue with data fragmentation, however. Taking a purely tactical approach like this is failing to exploit technology to bring out the full potential of data. Clearly this helps the bottom line but does it benefit the top?
Driving innovation – spatial and semantic technologies
There are opportunities for organisations to be smarter and use data in new and innovative ways for revenue growth. Whether storing structured or unstructured data, technology empowers organisations to innovate and play with their data to create new services rapidly and with the kind of agility that has the power to change market performance and dynamics.
One option to explore is spatial data technologies which provide a means for business to link information about customers, sales or physical assets to geospatial information within a database. This enables the creation of new geospatial systems and services by incorporating location analysis and intelligence into applications.
In addition, semantic technology has been around for some time and has started to deliver some great results. These technologies allow organisations to enhance structured data to bring meaning to it and change the way we interact with it - and thereby innovate new services.
Changing mindset – take a data perspective
While there are solid examples of data being used in innovative ways, to make it a game-changer consolidation in the data layer needs to take place. It is crucial for organisations to look closely at the type of data they hold, for example transactional information, and bring it together in a shared database and single infrastructure. Ultimately, organisations need to change the way they architect their systems to integrate data and run business processes on top of it to get value from the data they hold.
Consolidation can play a key role in delivering business value from IT
Many organisations consolidate at the storage, server or O/S layer and stop there. But they are missing a trick - the next layer up is the database, or more importantly, the data layer. This is the point at which technology meets the business - or where IT operational cost saving meets business value creation - depending on your mindset. As such, getting the layer wrong when consolidating, or virtualising, could have an enormous impact on the business.
It is clear that data is a valuable strategic asset for any business but to capitalise on it, there needs to be a shift in mindset. A database is not simply rows of data in tables to use as a tactical tool anymore, advances in technology have transformed them into strategic game-changers and they must be looked at as such.