Data is the lifeblood of the digital revolution and it is the new business currency for organizations that want to survive and thrive in the digital era.
We live in a world that is awash with data, and digital leaders have created whole new industries while many business and technology executives in established industries are still struggling to understand how much data they hold, let alone get value from it.
CIOs and business technology leaders have a crucial role to play in unlocking the data their organizations hold – opening up the right data, to the right people, at the right time – and doing so in a repeatable and secure way.
Their challenge doesn’t end there. New digital industries are emerging from the amalgamation of data across many traditional businesses to create new services and new sources of profit. Smart Cities are one example of this process and CIOs must not only help the business identify useful data held by others but also devise the architectures and introduce the technologies that enable successful data sharing and the creation of new services, products and platforms. They also have to handle the deluge of new data that technologies, such as the Internet of Things, mobile and artificial intelligence, create and require.
All this is a challenge that CIOs and business technology leaders have to meet. If they don’t deliver the infrastructure and technologies that can help their organizations respond quickly to customer demands and competitive threats – and, with good use of data, even anticipate them – then their jobs, their teams and even the business are at risk.
It is a truism that most IT departments and analytics teams have little idea of what data their organization holds and, even when there is a clear view of that data, the vast majority of it is unused. Getting this data in order and extracting business value from it has driven the analytics boom of the past half decade, but there is much more to be done.
Pete Hulme, Business Technical Lead for Data Centres at Dimension Data, says, “It is incumbent on any CIO or business technology leader to present a coherent data strategy to their organization. That begins with cataloguing the data currently collected and the data that could be collected but which isn’t. This should be accompanied by suggestions of data that can’t yet be collected but which should be collected, and an invitation to line of business leaders to pinpoint data that offers insights into current business conditions and into customer behaviour that they would like to have.”
This approach removes the temptation to collect data just because you can, with all the costs and risks that entails. Rather, it focuses your data strategy on delivering immediate business value and on supporting longer-term digital transformation projects, explains Hulme. “The data you gather only has value if it gives actionable insights,” he adds.
The sheer volumes of data now available, and the new analytics and big data technologies and services that are accessible to even quite small businesses, means that decisions can be made on the basis of knowledge rather than speculation.
For Hulme, it is important to not only leverage data to guide business decisions but to do so on platforms that enable the creation of new products and services that shorten the timescale from pilot projects to full scale production.
However, while extracting value from the data you already hold is essential to business agility in the digital economy, it is no longer sufficient. Organizations also have to identify data acquired and controlled by third parties that can be of use.
At a reactive level, this means determining sources of data that your competitors use or can access, and making sure you match their capabilities. At a proactive level, it means looking for data and data sets owned or created by third parties that can either bring context to your business decisions or, through the creation of new ecosystems, unlock whole new markets.
Connected cars are a classic example of new ecosystems, with vehicle manufacturers, telcos, infrastructure management firms, information and entertainment system providers, mapping and geospatial data providers and many more, all collaborating and sharing data to creating new markets.
The connected car is itself a vital component of the smart city ecosystem, which links not just road and transport information but schools, libraries, hospitals, power and water supply networks, waste management and law enforcement to improve the efficiency of services.
“Not every organization can create or lead such an ecosystem, but data is the currency that allows organizations of all sizes to participate profitably in these new ecosystems,” argues Hulme.
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