Visibility of data and infrastructure across organisations is essential to provide the insights and proactive approach they require for better decision-making and successful digital transformation
Data is the lifeblood of every business and at the heart of any successful digital transformation. When it is completely visible across an organisation and consistently translated into insights, companies can make better-informed decisions and faster.
By viewing the full breadth of their data, accompanied by the infrastructure that it passes through and resides in, organisations can pivot from reactive to proactive management. Having full sight of data is crucial to understanding the pressure points in a digital transformation journey, and delivering new services and products to market.
However, while many businesses are good at understanding the value of data and its ability to support actionable business insights, achieving complete visibility, knowing how to manage data intelligently and activating its true value are significant challenges.
Not only are organisations faced with harnessing the huge volume of data they have collected, they must also deal with a typically scattered environment across complex IT architectures, including multiple databases, cloud providers and on-premise stores.
“Most modern businesses now have data stored across different architectures,” says Michael Cade, global technologist at software firm Veeam. “They’re likely using cloud architecture like AWS or Microsoft Azure, software-as-a-service solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive, physical architecture such as Linux or AIX, and potentially virtual architecture like VMware or Nutanix. Attempting to manage the vast amount of data generated and stored across those architectures can feel like a major headache.
“Managing data with proactivity and full visibility is vital. When almost every industry has become more competitive than ever, the ability for businesses to step onto the front foot and do what needs to be done faster has never been more important.”
Naturally, companies are at different levels of maturity in terms of visibility of their data. However, most are still looking at the topic from the perspective of reacting to transactional reporting with perhaps a limited understanding of industry key performance indicators, such as manufacturers focusing on the overall equipment efficiency on their shop floor.
The majority of firms still don’t understand the data assets they possess
Last year’s introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation caused many organisations for the first time to take stock of the data they have. While savvy companies have turned this into an opportunity to examine what insights they’re not tapping into, the majority of firms still don’t understand the data assets they possess.
“I don’t think the shift perspective towards being more predictive has really kicked in,” says Martin Clothier, technical director at Columbus UK. “We see a lot of customers still trying to fit all of this new cloud, analytical, digital magic into their systems landscape. The opportunity is there to find untapped datasets and leverage the tools available to gain real business insights. But many companies still just see a sea of buzzwords and don’t understand how to apply advanced analytics techniques to the data they have.”
While product and transaction data is often captured to a high level of accuracy, particularly in industries such as retail, there is typically a significant gap in understanding the customer when transitioning from online to in-store or vice versa.
Primark, for example, has demonstrated how a lack of data visibility can impact an organisation’s strategy. By avoiding any kind of ecommerce offering, and limiting data capture to names and email addresses on a site where customers share photos of their outfits, it is restricted in terms of opportunities for personalised marketing.
ASOS, on the other hand, tracks browsing and purchase patterns through profiles set up by customers online or using their app, which enables it to suggest products based on previous behaviour and launch popular marketing campaigns such as Your Edit and Style Match. By anchoring its strategy to data, it constantly learns more about its customers.
While ASOS is a native digital company, a growing number of bricks-and-mortar stores are also improving how they collect data, according to Ralph Fernando, senior managing director at consumer strategy consultancy Pragma. Indeed, some digital natives are even now opening physical stores as a means of capturing more contextual data.
“Fabletics, the fast-growing athletic-wear brand, collects in-store data to inform its digital strategy and has seen online sales increase 2.5 times within a 30-mile vicinity of anywhere it opens a physical store,” he says. “Attribution, whereby browsing and purchasing patterns are matched to customers, is the Holy Grail, and technologies such as RFID [radio-frequency identification] tagging, facial recognition and beacons are helping companies inch forward.”
The way companies collect, process, analyse and act upon data is moving fast. But while the volume of available data continues to increase exponentially, practical visibility of this information, making it available to the right people at the right time and in a format to drive meaningful positive action, still lags behind its vast potential. Those that grasp this opportunity are most likely to see their digital transformation succeed.