A global IDC on data study commissioned by Seagate highlights the predicament that organisations face today – how to combat data sprawl. This becomes a challenge when marketers argue for the need to acquire more data to get a better insight into the business.
The Seagate Rethink Data report revealed that only 32% of data available to enterprises is being put to work, while 68% of this existing data goes unleveraged and untapped.
Part of the challenge of managing this data sprawl is not having a defined objective for data collection.
Robert Yang, regional vice president for Asia-Pacific at Seagate Technology, says collecting is easy, intelligence is the hard one.
This is complicated by which data security, consistently rated as a top concern and priority for both business and technology leaders. And yet, Yang says two-thirds of respondents to the report admitted to insufficient data security.
“Many organisations surveyed have not implemented common data security practices enterprise-wide,” he added. With forecasts for data sprawl to increase over the next two years, organisations in APAC will need to tackle specific policy and infrastructural challenges if they are to be effective at tame day-to-day data management.
This includes better integration of data management, a unified and consistent data management function that can scale, IT infrastructure that supports artificial intelligence and edge devices enabled with real-time data gathering, analysis and use.
“Finally, equipping staff with data skills so they can be agile and strategic in utilising data in their day-to-day tasks,” added Yang.
IDC’s Sandeep Sharma, research manager for Software and IT Services for the Asia-Pacific region, added that “at the very outset, we have to appreciate that organisations across the globe (and including in Asia/Pacific) have deliberated upon the value of data and associated challenges for long. There are several reasons why efforts at scaling data monetisation have not borne fruit in line with organisations' anticipations.”
He added that organisations facing "data glut" which poses ongoing weighty concerns around data access, collection, processing, and insights generation. This is escalating by the day with humungous volumes of data being created every single minute.
He opined that even organisations with the financial and manpower muscle have not been successful at the enterprise-wide level with regards to data management and value creation.
The 2019 IDC Software Survey of 886 organisations in Asia/Pacific excluding Japan, noted that data quality and availability were cited as the most consequential technical concern for respondents.
He conceded that this has been on the radar of organisations for a long time. Also mentioned as key data issues are data access, governance, and security.
“From a business perspective, organisations are also plagued with the shortage of skilled professionals in data science, analytics, and data management for effective design and implementation of these projects,” said Sharma.
As a result, organisations are not able to project a suitable return for their data/analytics projects which hampers the efforts in soliciting budgetary approvals for these initiatives in the future.
The real cost of ineffective data management
Sharma suggested that data be viewed as the "fuel" that runs the operations and innovation engines of organisations. It has proved to be a competitive differentiator in many industries, specifically e-commerce, financial services, supply chain, and so on.
“Without appropriate data management practices in place, organisations are rendered ineffective across varied arms of business operations, vis. customer experience, production, creation of new solutions (innovation), optimisation of existing workflows, ecosystem management, and so on,” he concluded.
Where to proceed
According to Yang, Seagate has identified data operations (DataOps) as a key solution to data management and strengthening the competitive edge of any enterprise. DataOps connects data consumers with data creators to enable collaboration and accelerate innovation.
Data consumers are people responsible for driving organisational decision-making. They are people who don’t need raw data per se but are looking for actionable insights instead.
Data creators can be machines—such as endpoint and IoT devices—and people who generate reports and information to support decision-makers.
IDC’s Sharma cautioned that addressing data associated concerns requires an alteration in approach and mindset to such projects.
“This calls out for the executives to consider data as a strategic asset and lead/sponsor these projects with all their support and direction. This would help channelise an organisation's resources with purpose and alignment,” he continued.
He cites two major areas that need imminent action from organisations.
First: intervention in data quality, integrity and availability
Processes must be set up (and technology solutions adopted) for setting up, standardising, and refining processes for data collection, storage, recovery, processing, and quality. Defining data types and usage also becomes extremely critical. There also needs to be a mechanism for data stewardship and governance – these would also pave the way for quality management.
Second: a conscious effort to improve data literacy of employees at all level, while working with specialists for specific data needs that they are unable to address using internal resources.
“It must be borne in mind that a significant proportion of analytics projects fail just because of lack of skilled professionals to architect and execute these projects,” he warned.
The consequence of inaction
Asked to name one long-term data from an ineffective data management practice, Yang cited dampened data accuracy and operational efficiency, which in turn will affect customer experience and retention, increase operational costs, and result in financial losses.
He also added that companies that frequently suffer security breaches will risk the loss of trust among employees and customers, and a diminished reputation, eventually impacting the company’s bottom line as people will avoid association with a company that suffered from a data breach.
Sharma had a far simple but just as cringe-worthy for leadership: “a reduction in competitive advantage that could ultimately lead to business disruption.”