Data fragmentation challenges restrict business flexibility

For any organisation to be able to react to rapidly changing market conditions, there is a requirement for the devolution of decision making to local managers.

This in turn places considerable pressure on IT to ensure local managers have all the information they require to act independently at their fingertips.

This is no easy problem to address and puts CIOs under great pressure as modifying IT systems to deliver new services can be complex and time consuming.

To help IT respond rapidly to change, considerable attention has already been paid by large and mid-sized organisations to areas such as data centre consolidation, server and storage virtualisation and various approaches to cloud computing.

Yet when it comes to the information itself, our research of line of business managers, shows that data fragmentation and difficulty finding information are highlighted as major impediments to effective decision making. Getting hold of the information required to make decisions and run the business can consume considerable effort (Figure 1).

The research revealed organisations that are able to effectively utilise key performance indicators generally outperform their peers.

But making sure everyone in the management structure has access to the data they need is by no means straightforward in distributed environments.

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Whilst improvements in IT capabilities can assist in making information easier for business managers to get hold of, technology solutions alone can only deliver so much.

Operational processes, both within IT and in line of business units, need to be modified in step with IT investments for the organisation to maximise benefits.

At a technology level, the CIO may wish to develop advanced capabilities in areas such master data management (MDM), data integration and data-cleansing to help reduce the need for data reconciliation between sources.

Beyond this, solutions including centralised content management may also assist line managers to make better real time decisions as delegation of action spreads through the organisation.

But getting different data sources, even in a small business, to agree with each other in terms of format and, more importantly content, is a complex task.

Data reconciliation essentially relies on people making choices.

In most large organisations multiple departments may each hold fragments of information that needs to be assembled and manipulated by managers in order to be useful for making timely decisions.