The Asset You Can’t Ignore
I hear this idea a lot lately: Data, we’ve suddenly realized, is a business asset, a source of potential value. This is certainly true, but a lot of the discussion seems to frame that opportunity as a bonus, something extra. That’s ridiculous. “Making the most of your data” is not the limited province of extra-clever CIOs or unicorn startups. I would argue that extracting maximum value from your assets are table stakes for every business.
Last May at Informatica World 2017, customers & partners were telling me that part of the reason they are working so hard to realize a “digital transformation” is that they understand the future will be determined by how well they compete on digital assets—customer data, IoT data, integrating data from different parts of their business and action orientated analytics on all of it. Competing on physical assets such as machinery, access to markets, and cash in the bank is no longer the recipe for success.
And when you really recognize that data is an asset, you don’t see exploiting it as a special initiative. If you had billions of dollars just sitting around in the bank, your shareholders would push hard to invest in growth or pay a dividend. They’d be similarly skeptical of keeping an idle factory on the books. It is the same with data. To do any less is irresponsible.
Assets and expectations
Data is transforming almost every product and service, not just software-fueled businesses like Amazon, Netflix, or Airbnb. Digital technology has infiltrated products you’ve purchased (car, refrigerator, thermostat) and completely altered the way we shop, buy, and interact with brands for everything from golf clubs to cars to finding a dentist.
As a result, customer expectations have changed. Customers are giving us data all the time, and they expect us to use it to make transaction experiences easier, and to stop wasting their time with off-target marketing. They expect us to know them.
Expectations within organizations have changed as well. There is so much data within our businesses, with sensors making formerly dumb devices “smart” and so many analytics and automation tools to help us make sense of it. Since all that data is literally at our fingertips, we’re expected to extrapolate the best possible decisions from it, every time.
In other words, making the most of our data isn’t just an ambitious side project. It’s a survival strategy.
Meeting the challenge
Leveraging all this data and mastering all these technologies is not easy. But businesses are pulling it off. For the companies that are figuring out how to leverage data despite the complexities, I find two things are essential: perspective and precision.
First, CIOs need to communicate their end-to-end knowledge of their organization’s data. We need to show how everything fits together around a single purpose: helping the entire organization better achieve its most important outcomes. This organizational perspective means not seeing this month’s launch of a new marketing system and next month’s ERP upgrade as two separate projects. It means that if you have brick-and-mortar retail locations and online commerce, you don’t view those as two separate businesses. Because your customers certainly don’t.
The second crucial factor, precision, means making sure you have a well-thought-out enterprise data management strategy. You will have to know how data throughout your organization will be governed and secured, and how quality is ensured. This is the foundation—it’s the difference between having data you can use, even for purposes you haven’t thought of yet, versus just having a disconnected mess that’s more a problem than a solution to anything.
While CIOs cannot force this global, data-centric strategy onto the organization, they’re best positioned to champion the vision and help lead the organization toward it.
The good news is that the vast majority of leaders get it. They’re on board, and wrestling with the challenges of making it work. Five years ago, many CIOs were asking, “Should I go to the cloud?” Today, they’re asking, “How do I get started, and get support for the next level of cloud and data transformation?” They’re asking how to stitch all the pieces together, make applications work seamlessly, connect/secure/deliver the data and draw the best insights from it.
It’s an exhilarating set of questions, because we’re not asking whether we must take on these new digital challenges. We are acknowledging that they must be taken head-on and IT leaders are the best-suited to make it happen.
Don’t agree? Tell me why!
For more information on the how, check out this opensource.com article called “What are Microservices”