Think of data as a strategic asset that is unique to your business and is the gateway to valuable insight. You need to get to that value in a simple, fast and effective way. Here’s how.
Santo Orlando, EMEA Practice Director for Apps and Data Services at Insight shares his views on how to unlock insights from your data.
Businesses run on data and invest heavily in systems and technology to collect, store and use it. Even so, many businesses question whether the data is clean, accurate and complete enough to be truly trusted. They might have been collecting data for years and have probably stored it in separate data sets that serve the department it belongs to. The problem is that information in data silos isn’t sharable, so how do you unlock its value to the business unless you can put it all together and use it?
The increasing use of data by practically every department or functional area is driving the idea that data doesn’t belong to one department. It’s been democratised. However, it’s not free for all. Data must have the structure, governance and security that comes from a data strategy.
As more organisations look to be data-driven, they create strategies to collect, store, manage, share, use and automate their data using cloud or hybrid technologies. The cloud has really opened up the notion of a centralised, single source of trusted data that is clean and processed to remove duplication. The limitations of pre-cloud technologies tended to trap data in those dreaded silos. Removing data silos and bringing disparate sources together into a centralised system is the first and often the biggest challenge that data transformation or data modernisation projects must tackle.
Using the cloud to host data is about more than simply moving platforms to provide more access, increase speed or save money. It involves structure, planning, change management, and strong data governance alongside technology. The thing to avoid is an ad hoc cloud migration. That’s why it is important to look at data objectives in a holistic way and ask, ‘what does this do for the whole business?’.
Within every organisation there’s an enormous amount of operational data generated, from sales, production, finance, HR, etc. I would say that most of what is being collected isn’t being used properly… yet! That’s going to change as more and more people become aware of the value of data to provide answers and prompt other questions to ask.
There’s also information in your organisation that you probably don’t count as data right now. Maybe you want to strengthen your environmental, social and corporate governance. This involves data about your office space, recycling, travel policies, etc. This might not fit in any databases that your IT team maintains, yet it fuels decisions about how to act more sustainably as a business.
So, let’s say you are a data-driven business. What advantages does this give you? Data increases your resilience. It helps you spot trends and changes in your markets so you can respond faster than your competitors. You can improve customer satisfaction through the behavioural information that sales and marketing data gives you. Plus, you can use data to drive operational decisions such as when to service or replace machinery in the most cost-effective way. Many decisions like these can be taken by AI or machine learning (ML).
There is strong evidence that ML and AI are becoming an accepted part of the business environment. Research by IDC told us that 85% of EMEA organisations’ cloud migration strategy includes data innovation through AI, ML or analytics objectives. Data is the foundation for AI, although even in 2022 people still see AI as something from the future. As users, we have come to accept cloud computing as we sync apps and data between smartphones, tablets and other devices. But AI seems a bit further away. Maybe it’s because AI is used behind the scenes for analysis. The truth is AI is all around us. Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri learn from our instructions and perform data analysis on our interactions – the data – without any human input.
AI makes decisions and predictions based on the patterns it observes in data. It can solve problems without any human intervention before we’re even aware of them. AI can spot and solve likely overloads on a comms network, or potential machine failure at a manufacturing plant. It can also see patterns in purchasing decisions that someone with a certain profile is likely to make. It’s all based on data, and the best way to store and process data in the volumes we’re talking about it is in the cloud.
In the cloud, the data used by AI is always available and accessible. The cloud provides the compute power necessary to perform complex algorithms and draw data from many data sets at the same time. To illustrate this, Insight helped a company transform its customer profiling algorithm from a 26–28-hour process to just 2-3 hours by moving the data platform to Azure. This meant it could perform more modelling and explore more potential scenarios, getting to key information quicker and making decisions with a stronger likelihood of an accurate outcome.
What I want you to take away from this is the view that data is an essential foundation for resilience and growth in your business. The cloud lets you access accurate data securely anytime from anywhere, and that data helps you make better business decisions and identify new business opportunities. Business, operations, product management – whatever your role, everything improves with insights from data. I’d say that taking a structured approach to your cloud data strategy can help you unlock the insights within your data, not just for commercial gain but for more people-oriented outcomes like sustainability and company culture.
If this all seems like a huge undertaking, there are partners like Insight who can help you at every stage – even if you have already embarked on your data transformation journey because, as I mentioned earlier, there might be potential value in data that you don’t realise yet.
To see how Insight can help with your data strategy and cloud needs, visit uk.insight.com/cloud