Data is a fundamental source of value; while this has become a truism, the power of the statement is still lost on many organizations which believe in this idea theoretically, but haven’t taken practical steps to ensure the idea is actionable. Inherent in this notion — that data has become this phase of history’s most valuable resource– are two core ideas: First, that organizations must find ways to sustainably harness data and, second, that the data resource is too important to be sequestered in the realm of “experts.”
These coupled ideas suggest that a truly agile, automated, governed, secure, and democratized data infrastructure is the next big thing for all organizations. Data is indeed the new oil.
This analogy is powerful because it is both broad and deep. While oil was undoubtedly the commodity of most “value” for almost a century, accessing it at scale and using it optimally were no average feats. Nor was it easy to create a technology ecosystem that allowed “normal” people to access the benefits of abundant and plentiful oil. In fact, entire industries were built around exploration, refining, marketing, and other elements of the oil “supply chain.” Taking the idea further, entire swaths of infrastructure were built for optimal use of oil by a hungry industry and an increasingly affluent society.
Data will go through this same evolutionary process. And while it is not a natural or “material” commodity, it has to be managed just like oil.
Data Infrastructure Plan
What is needed is a plan for Data Infrastructure that allows at once for the broad and agile use of data without compromising the sanctity of certain data, or the infrastructure itself. This must be done at scale and in accordance with the inevitable change that occurs in all business scenarios.
In the lexicon of business, this means that a Data Infrastructure must at once serve business users who are hungry for growth and who are driven by the “power of now” and the IT organization that is rightly concerned with security, governance, and compliance.
The maturity of this Data Infrastructure is an essential element of the plan. Data sources change, new sources come online, and over time, changes occur in the world of compliance (witness GDPR to understand how tectonic changes can be legislated) – the dynamic nature of data calls for a flexible and assimilative infrastructure that requires upfront thought.
Getting it right from day one is essential
Necessary elements of this are:
1. Ensuring that the infrastructure is not “locked” or brittle so that it can accommodate the changes in data sources- both in type and number
2. Ensuring that the infrastructure allows for the scales use of data, and does not require great “expertise” to wield the data in an actionable fashion
3. Accommodating the need for agility while not compromising security and governance
4. Driving harmony between business users and IT by automation
Put differently, all organizations will be judged by the maturity of their data infrastructures. In a world in which the differential management and utilization of the data resource will be the axis on which success or failure is determined, focusing now on the right data infrastructure is the clarion call that all executives and owners must heed.