The modern business landscape is a fast-moving, ever-changing, highly competitive environment. For companies to outpace the competition and build upon innovation, they must embrace a modern data architecture. It is necessary that this new architecture support today’s new requirements such as mobile integration and advanced digital marketing.
While the specific configuration of a modern data architecture might vary from business to business, no data architecture can help companies reach their fullest potential if it doesn’t allow for a comprehensive view of all data assets within the enterprise in all formats from all sources. This especially includes the mainframe.
Marrying Modern and Mainframe
Despite being around for decades, mainframe servers continue to play an important role in the IT infrastructure of many top companies spanning all verticals. In fact, according to information from the enterprise IT user group SHARE, 96% of the world’s top banks and nine out of 10 of the world’s largest insurance companies run on IBM System z mainframe servers, and mainframe systems process about 30 billion transactions per day.
Yet, despite its prevalence, it’s not uncommon for the mainframe to remain underutilized when it comes to data access, even though using all data within an organization to inform advertising, product development, customer profiling, and many other vital functions is paramount to success in today’s fast-changing world. The truth is, unless organizations can realize and act on the valuable nuggets of customer and product information housed within the mainframe, they’re selling themselves short. The only way to fully modernize business operations is to embrace the reliable, but often forgotten, mainframe data.
Mobility is one area where data and real-time responses are critical. We know that mobile devices have profoundly changed the way companies relate to customers, interact with employees, and conduct business. But they’ve also raised the stakes, as enterprise mobility has overwhelmingly become a main driver of business innovation while mobile applications and devices have quickly become the dominant data consumption vehicles.
Market research has suggested that more people now have access to a mobile device than a computer, and that, by 2016, the average corporate device will synchronize and orchestrate content with at least five different synchronization services. The U.S. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) market is currently made up of 71 million devices and is expected to increase by 52% by 2016, according to a Cisco survey.
It’s clear that mobility is a business-critical tool of the modern era. Given this, mobility success relies heavily on business-IT collaboration; for many organizations, this begins in the data center by providing easy access to information within the enterprise mainframe.
In fact, by using today’s advanced modernization solutions on the back end, it has become easier than ever to provide a compelling and engaging mobile experience to users on the front end simply by implementing advanced technology tools to essentially “unlock” mainframe data assets and create leading-edge mobile applications that both engage customers and reduce costs.
Modern Digital Marketing
Like mobility, digital marketing is another area where ubiquitous data access plays an integral role in a company’s success. Let’s face it: Modern tech-savvy customers will settle for nothing less than a highly personal experience when interacting with businesses, products, and brands. Companies must understand this, and interact with customers accordingly.
Digital marketing is the key to interacting with modern clients on their terms, expanding the customer base and increasing sales through targeted offers. It’s also at the forefront of improving customer experience management in a climate where one missed step can send demanding consumers straight into the arms of competitors.
So how can businesses leverage digital marketing to their greatest advantage? By achieving a 360-degree customer view, organizations can target their audiences and successfully market to their specific needs. But this can only be attained via true data-driven segmentation that finely targets existing and potential customers to realize the greatest engagement and purchase potential.
Data-driven segmentation depends on a company’s ability to create and find data that shows what a customer is worth to a company. This includes how often he or she interacts with the brand, his or her buying preferences, and what he or she owns or has yet to own. This, in turn, impacts how often a business communicates to the customer and what is said at each touchpoint.
And yes, this comprehensive vantage point is only made possible through integration of data across all platforms—including the mainframe.
Data Orchestration for the Modern Infrastructure
Creating a modern data infrastructure comes back to the basic notion of accessing all existing data to inform and drive innovation. And when it comes to businesses that rely on the mainframe, bringing data together through information orchestration is one method of modernizing the mainframe and ensuring that all relevant information makes it into the business-decision equation.
At its heart, orchestration helps businesses consolidate data from multiple source systems. It allows organizations to neutralize format, validate relationships between records and data elements, and create a single source for information, whether for digital marketing, mobile, or other business purposes.
In addition, information orchestration offers what is often a more flexible, and more affordable, alternative to completely migrating off the mainframe. The approach also helps companies plug into the wealth of information on their mainframe-related systems such as customer information systems (for transaction information and spend history) and product information systems (for valuable pricing information and product description information).
Benefits of Data Orchestration
Along with tapping into systems on the mainframe, orchestration can help companies achieve a host of business benefits. For example, using the mainframe as a provider as well as a consumer of data makes an investment in the mainframe more valuable. Additional benefits include the following:
- Real-Time Decision Analytics—With access to more complete, up-to-date integrated data, companies can become more nimble and make faster, more informed business decisions to improve operational efficiency and customer service.
- Simplified Data Access—As companies grow—organically and through mergers and acquisitions—operations can become siloed because the data systems are disparately located and lack common structure and format. Effective orchestration opens operational borders, enabling ubiquitous access to business-critical information through a common interface and reducing the need for unique skill sets for each data source.
- Legacy Modernization—Technology continues to push the speed of business, especially as it relates to IT. For many firms, mobile, internet and business intelligence requirements are overloading IT professionals. Bringing data together via integration can extend the life and value of existing legacy resources, while allowing data to flow to and from the disparate sources of data in real time.
- Cost Reduction—Faced with growing consumer demand and competitive pressure, companies are pushing to get IT projects completed quickly and at the lowest possible cost. A sound business strategy and an effective mainframe modernization solution can actually reduce data storage and warehouse costs, enabling companies to cope with decreasing mainframe programming skills and gain a common tool for reusing multiple source datasets.
- Smarter Resource Allocation—Creating and maintaining a stable, consistent development environment makes it possible to maximize IT talent and resources. This helps ensure that future projects will be completed on time and within budget.
- Simplified Formatting—A unified data architecture means information is accessed in its native form. When the legacy data never moves off the mainframe, there is no need to initiate a huge conversion effort, with code writing, and all of the associated challenges.
- App Flexibility—Having multiple ways to access the data and deploy the finished application means much more flexibility in the way future apps are developed and deployed.
- In the end, by bringing data together, companies can provide measurable and enduring business performance for marketing by integrating mainframe data for segmentation. They can also orchestrate data from disparate corporate systems on the distributed network and combine it into one web-based service for a live, real-time connection to automated marketing systems, mobile systems, and other modern business systems.
Data: The Most Powerful Tool of the Modern Age
To leverage all data assets and achieve a modern data architecture, the tried-and-true mainframe must be part of the conversation—at least for those companies that still depend on mainframes. And that’s a good thing, because mainframes remain one of the most data-rich sources of relevant business information within an organization. By modernizing powerful mainframes that happen to already support an organization’s most critical business applications, companies are able to realize astounding cost savings and open the way toward greater efficiency and new revenue streams.
Whether a business wants to improve strategic services in marketing, finance, or sales; wants to improve business performance with easy mobile access to business-critical solutions; or wants to leverage stronger data analytics—all are possible with a modern asset architecture. And, all lead back to the ever-important mainframe.
Jeff Andrews is chief technology officer of GT Software.