It’s been long acknowledged that data is the most precious commodity of the 21st-century business, and that all efforts and resources need to be dedicated to the acquisition and care of this resource. Lately, however, executives have become enamored with the vision of transforming their organizations into “data-driven” enterprises, which move forward into the future on data-supported insights.
So, what, exactly, does the ideal “data-driven enterprise” look like? Industry observers state there are some key qualities these emerging breeds of organization all have in common. “Data-driven enterprises think differently,” said Kimberly Nevala, director of business strategies on the best practices team at SAS. “They not only ask ‘how are we doing,’ but ask ‘why, what if, and what else?’”
This stems from a deep appreciation for and understanding of corporate data, “and how it can be used with publicly available or subscription data to help enterprises make better decisions,” said Mike Flannagan, senior vice president of analytics for SAP. “Data-driven enterprises also realize that their data is an asset that must be managed carefully, much like their real estate portfolio or human resources.”
Delivery of business value matters in the end, as data “is raw material, not a final solution,” said Joe Pasqua, executive vice president of products for MarkLogic. “Ideally, enterprises should be insight-driven and those insights will be based on data, knowledge of the market and customers, and an ability to act on those insights.”
Ultimately, “a data-driven enterprise makes all its trusted data available to everyone within the enterprise to allow them to make decisions more easily and quickly,” said Dennis Duckworth, director of product marketing for VoltDB. “It also provides tools to suggest such decisions based on the data. Data flows into the enterprise as fast as it is produced and is immediately acted upon, both analytically and transactionally, to produce the best business outcome.”
The forces supporting the move to data-driven enterprises are a direct response to the pressures of growing a 21st-century business. “It’s not the actual technology or implementation that is forcing organizations to become data-driven,” observed Patrick McFadin, vice-president of developer relations for DataStax. “It’s good old-fashioned competition. There is a clear group of winning companies exploiting data to gain the advantage. This has forced incumbents to innovate or die.”
Companies pursuing a competitive edge through analytics-driven innovation “cannot rely on technology alone—culture is central to success,” said Bob Berkey, analytics transformation lead at Accenture Analytics. “Hiring new skills such as data scientists, for example, will be of no business value if they are not embedded across the organization, able to inform new perspectives across teams, and drive intelligent business operations.”
There is a natural convergence between evolving to data-driven and embracing the latest automation technologies. “We find that data-driven businesses are able to drive more automation over time, which is massively reducing manual processes,” said John Carione, product and corporate marketing leader at QuickBase. “IoT, sensors, and other technologies make it easier to get more data faster. That makes the ability to react to changes in information even more important and more valuable.”
There are a number of technology strains that promise to speed the advance into the digital enterprise. IoT is one key area, providing “companies with the ability to generate volumes of data about their business that were impossible a decade ago,” said Flannagan.
“We’ve moved well beyond the days of simple transactional data stored in relational databases,” said Matthew Renze, a content and course author at Pluralsight. “IoT-enabled devices are becoming ubiquitous in the enterprise. These devices provide us with fine-grained sensing and control of all aspects of our enterprise using a flood of near real-time telemetry data.”
Technologies such as those associated with IoT promise to open up vast new opportunities, but also pose challenges to corporate data shops. “Traditional relational databases were built to capture transactions,” said Ravi Mayuram, senior vice president of products and engineering for Couchbase. “Data-driven enterprises that aspire to embrace digital transformation and customer experience need to focus on growing trends of customer engagement and interaction, rather than on simple transactions.”