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How To Keep Control of Your Data and Unleash Its Power

Brian Householder

September 19, 2018

As organizations embark on strategic business initiatives to reduce inefficiencies and drive new revenue streams, they often deal with massive amounts of data. No matter the industry and no matter the product, data is the second-most important and strategic asset in any enterprise, surpassed only by the talent of its people. While data can identify huge opportunities, any big data project involves an element of risk. The more data an organization generates, the more it has to protect.

Data analytics and artificial intelligence are powerful tools, and like any tools, they need to be used responsibly. A satellite imaging company opened a whole new market by simply tapping into the data it had already generated. Data – and this is key – that it owned and had exclusive rights to. As companies continue to rely more heavily on cloud storage services, the ownership, rights and stewardship of their data is getting lost in the shuffle, and that is a serious threat to both their future innovation agenda and financial results.

Before delving into strategies for maintaining ownership of enterprise data, it’s useful to step back and understand how companies lose control of their data in the first place. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s certainly never intentional. You see, initially applications are built native in the cloud. To maximize performance, much of this data is kept in the cloud as well. Over time, cloud providers offer incentives to extend the hosting agreement to include proprietary data service. As your application matures over time, more and more of your enterprise data might come to be under the control of that provider since the data services are proprietary to the cloud and cannot run anywhere else. At this point, transferring data out of that cloud silo or utilizing it in some other way becomes increasingly complex, expensive, or both. In addition, if your cloud provider chooses to increase their pricing or change their contractual terms, there’s not much you can do – they own you as a customer. And it might take two years to switch providers due to contractual obligations or red tape.

Your DevOps team may love the convenience of interfacing with this provider and using the tools it offers to create new applications. But in the future, accessing that same data – say, to correlate with another data set, or to provide it to data scientists developing a machine learning application that could transform your business – might be a formidable challenge.

Stay in charge with metadata

The good news is that your organization can use the benefits of the cloud and maintain data ownership and flexibility by implementing a strong data strategy. To take the lead with digital transformation and achieve better business outcomes, you must address data governance, analytics and management as key priorities. In fact, implementing a strong data strategy today prepares your organization for the exponential growth of data expected with the internet of things (IoT) and the decentralization of data to the cloud and to the edge. A key component of a data strategy includes using metadata: the structural, descriptive and administrative details of the data itself.

Here’s an example: Banks are dealing with unprecedented volumes of data of diverse types and in multiple locations, and the only way to make sense of it all is with metadata. Implementing a metadata strategy allows financial institutions to map to the desired information quickly and easily, even if it is stored in multiple third-party clouds. This gives them the ability to uncover actionable information that can only be derived from companywide data. Analyzing metadata will give banks the insight they need to ensure that data is responsibly and securely handled, and the ability to provide customers with up-to-date information on request. In turn, this will help build stronger customer relationships and increase conversion rates, ultimately driving more revenue.

Bringing IT into the executive huddle

Over the last 30 years, the IT departments of most organizations have been focused on optimizing costs. But that is changing, fortunately, as forward-looking CIOs begin to assume more strategic roles. Developing a strong data management policy to ensure ownership and access will ultimately mean that IT has a hand in creating new revenue opportunities, such as introducing new service offerings. And, as in the case of selling satellite image analysis to financial traders, sometimes these new services can become game-changers for the company.

Industry is in the midst of great transition, with digitization driving fundamental changes in how products are made, how services are delivered and how cities are run. Let’s be honest: Most companies are a long way from realizing their potential as far as digitization goes. Fewer than 40% of companies have digitized their data. Among those who have, most have only analyzed 5% or less of that data. The opportunities are still largely untapped, especially when it comes to capturing, analyzing and realizing business outcomes from data collected at the edge of the enterprise via sensors or similar devices.

But before running headlong into pilots or products that seek to leverage your enterprise data, make sure to deploy a data management strategy – one that focuses on using metadata as the “Data Intelligence Engine” – that will ensure ongoing control over access to your data. Armed with such a plan, and in partnership with application and infrastructure providers who keep you in the driver’s seat, you’ll be able to transform your business. Or, at the very least, avoid being disrupted by competitors.