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How to Turn Data from a Burden to Business Benefit

  • Written by Marc O’Regan, CTO, Dell Technologies Ireland

    What’s the point in collecting data if your business isn’t equipped to make the very most of it? That’s the key question business in Ireland need to consider, according to a recent study conducted on behalf of Dell Technologies by Forrester Consulting.

    The Data Paradox study, which involved speaking to more than 4,000 senior decision-makers in over 40 locations around the world and over 100 in Ireland, suggests that while businesses believe that data is vital fuel for their growth, they’re struggling to keep up with the ‘data-first, data anywhere’ business challenges. In fact, 70% of businesses reported gathering data faster than they can use it and 61% are consequently dealing with overwhelmed data teams.

     So, what can be done to turn data from a burden into the fuel for growth? Businesses can navigate the data burden by assessing their digital transformation journey in three areas: infrastructure, process, and people and culture.

     Infrastructure: Navigating the on-demand environment

    Irish businesses today are operating in a more dynamic, on-demand environment than ever before, but many are relying on legacy infrastructure that just isn’t agile or adaptable enough to cope. Rather than thinking in terms of hardware needs, CIOs should map business outcomes to digital infrastructure requirements, making the conversation about fuelling growth rather than project costs. They should set a plan that creates business-wide consensus for a manageable digital transformation. Taking this outcome-based approach will also help them to break down data siloes and help make data work harder. 

    As-a-service solutions can be key here by offering scalable capacity and performance. Businesses are alert to the opportunity – 63% of the Data Paradox study respondents stated they believe as-a-service approaches would enable firms to be more agile – which suggests that many see how it can help them to quickly pivot to seize new opportunities and better respond to changes in demand.

    This flexibility not only reduces the financial burden of infrastructure costs, but also allows businesses to add competencies and specialisations as they grow and their needs evolve. It reduces risk without sacrificing capabilities or losing control – and importantly closes off that data paradox.

    Process: Accelerating business growth

    As part of an outcomes-based approach to technology, businesses can also look at how they collect and store their data to unlock its full value. The Data Paradox study found that for 47% Irish decision-makers, the quality of their actionable insights has decreased or plateaued compared to where it was three years ago. Meanwhile, only 20% of business leaders said they are treating data as capital today – despite 63% claiming their businesses are data-driven.

    As data’s centre of gravity shifts in an increasingly distributed environment, setting the right processes will help make the ‘why’ of data collection the question that’s answered before people consider the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

    Businesses should also combine their data siloes to make it much easier to extract and act on insights in real time. For many, different parts of the business have different applications and this disconnected approach makes acquiring and sharing data slow and expensive, particularly after teams – or indeed businesses – combine.

    Better matching technology with business outcomes will also help the IT team to focus on advising other teams on ways to move the business forward using technology and data. Rather than spending time managing day-to-day infrastructure operations and issues, the use of end-to-end automation can ensure that the IT department can concentrate on strategic areas like consulting with the business on data harmonization and monetisation.

    People and Culture: Achieving business agility

    The Data Paradox study found that businesses cultural and skills readiness for the data era were lagging behind. To achieve the nirvana of data readiness a fine balance needs to be struck between technology and process, and culture and skills. Yet an incredible 91% of Irish business leaders claim their organisations are neglecting either or both of these elements.

    Instilling the right company-wide culture and behaviours is vital for digital transformation. It requires the right mix of leadership engagement and team skill sets so that businesses can fundamentally change the way they think about data and see it as a team sport. This means incentivising employees and teams to innovate with data and revising their structures to ensure they’re set up in a way that allows them to harness their data to drive customer value.

    Acquiring and nurturing new skills is also important because without a team of data-savvy enthusiasts that will treat data as capital, the quality of data becomes moot. Half (50%) of respondents in Ireland said that the data savviness of their staff has decreased or plateaued compared to where it was three years ago – and they are failing to address their capabilities shortages. Businesses across the island need to redouble their efforts to build a data-ready culture across the organisation.

    Clearly, data paradoxes are not just something for the IT department to deal with. These changes must come from the top and many span the organisation, because one thing that’s for sure is that there will be even more data in the future than there is now. It’s accelerating all the time – and if the people don’t change, the skills don’t change, the processes don’t change, and the infrastructure doesn’t change, it’ll be like trying to put 10 times more cars on a motorway without adding extra lanes. We’ll have data jams everywhere.

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