“Data-driven business” seems to be the buzz phrase of the day. But as I talk to customers and prospects in large enterprises around the world, I’m finding that many that claim to be data-driven, simply are not. The reason? They haven’t yet shifted their mindset to view data as a strategic business asset. Instead, too many companies continue to view data as part of the business infrastructure, not as something that delivers value in its own right. And because there’s frequently no executive or business function assigned to focus on preserving data integrity, it ends up in a constant state of chaos. But really, this isn’t a huge surprise.
If we look back a few years, there was a time when IT was in a state of chaos. Companies realized IT could be a competitive differentiator for their business. But for them to take advantage of the power of true IT, they needed to first tame the chaos that existed in their organization. This led to the emergence of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) function, and IT became a strategic part of the leadership team. The CIO’s responsibilities focused on making IT scalable and predictable and on reigning in the “shadow IT” operations that existed throughout the business. What CIOs quickly discovered was that to succeed as a business function, they needed a system of record — a single source of truth that gave them the ability to create scalable processes and establish IT governance. Thus, IT Service Management Systems became the CIO’s system of record.
Data is undergoing a similar shift today. Organizations sense the tremendous value that lies deep within their data. But to truly harness that power and gain competitive edge, they must understand how to use the data, what it means, and how it adds value. Simply put, they must find a way for everyone in the organization – every data citizen – to find, understand, and trust the data. And this last point – trust – is critical.
But how do you navigate this shift? The answers are simple, but not easy.
First, you need look at data through the business lens. Just declaring “data is a strategic business asset” is not enough. You need to elevate data to its own department, with a dedicated leader charged with taming the data chaos. For many organizations, this leader is the Chief Data Officer (CDO). Though an executive-level role like the CDO is relatively new for many businesses, Gartner predicts that by 2019, 90% of large companies will have a CDO role in place. And as the role of the CDO continues to rise, so will the importance of data.
Second, your organization must find a way to establish trust in the data so everyone can use data to drive innovation, make better decisions, and move the business forward. The reality, however, is that data lives – and will continue to live – in many different systems across an organization. Many organizations have tried to consolidate their data into one system, but this approach just doesn’t work. To address this challenge, you need a governance process supported by a system of record for your data. This is data governance.
Third, your data system of record must be strategic. A system of record doesn’t simply store all the data in one place. Rather, it connects all the data throughout your organization in a way that is meaningful for all data users. And it integrates initiatives and projects across the organization to drive greater value for the business. The real value of a system of record is that it provides a holistic view of the data landscape across the business, not one that focuses specifically on a particular department or system.
A system of record for your data also embodies all the processes that underlie the data. It enables processes for requesting access to data, for approving data, and for making changes to the data. It gives all data citizens a way to identify and fix bad data. And it keeps everyone who needs to know about the data in the loop, so a small change to one data element doesn’t cause an eruption of data brawls in the boardroom.
We’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data and leveraging the value it can provide. In fact, we can’t even imagine the sheer magnitude of data that is heading our way as big data shifts to the Internet of Things and even bigger data. And to be truly data-driven – to capture the incredible value that data can and will provide – you need a system of record that helps every data citizen find, understand, and trust the data.