Good data management was already a key driver of business success but the global pandemic has only made this requirement more urgent. Home or hybrid working also places greater pressure and scrutiny on data security. This new stay-at-home culture and less global travel has accelerated the digitisation of people’s personal and professional lives. “We know e-commerce is growing and here to stay,” says Rose Hiu, Seagate’s VP of global marketing and PR, “but the level of adoption is unprecedented even in locations such as Asia, where physical buying behaviour has traditionally been more prominent.”
Many businesses that don’t understand their own data will struggle to adapt, and even for those that do, the pace of change and the growth of data can be dizzying. “Those [businesses] that are not digital natives may have to rethink how they will survive and even recreate their business to a different model,” says Hiu.
Seagate’s 2020 report, Rethink Data, draws on a global survey conducted by independent research firm IDC of 1,500 senior tech decision makers in businesses across the world. It sets out the challenges, solutions and benefits from an increased, or renewed, focus on efficient data management.
The data sprawl
The report states that “no company wants their data lake to turn into a data swamp where unleveraged yet potentially useful data sits dormant on storage media,” yet the volume of untapped data is staggering. The aim for businesses of all sizes should be to collect and connect data from different sources and derive value from it. “We need to see data lakes as reservoirs where many vibrant river meet,” says Ravi Naik, Seagate’s CIO.
“Data is a treasure trove of value,” says Rethink Data yet many organisations underestimate the value of data because it is seen as an intangible asset that is not represented on a balance sheet. In a 2018 survey conducted for Seagate by the IDC, only 11% of organisations considered themselves leaders in the ability to leverage the value of corporate data compared with others in their industry.
One of Rethink Data’s headline numbers is the anticipated growth of data. The report’s survey showed an expected growth rate of 42.2% –more data is created per hour now than in an entire year just two decades ago. According to the survey, businesses are utilising only around 32% of their data, meaning that more than two-thirds is not being put to work. There are five main barriers to activating this data: making collected data usable; managing the storage of collected data; ensuring that data is collected; ensuring the security of collected data; and making different silos of collected data available.
This can result in a number of undesirable outcomes. For an e-commerce business, it leads to a sub-optimal customer experience in a world where consumers are becoming so used to a highly personalised, intuitive online journey. In the survey, the manufacturing industry presented as having below-average satisfaction of data management that impacts both productivity and recruitment as it seeks to develop a younger workforce.
Poor data management is also a security risk, one that has only been heightened in recent months as employees across the globe have adapted to home working and now hybrid working, as the return to some sort of office life begins. Hiu says she has heard of “horrific stories” about lax data security, among them the inappropriate use of personal devices, public WiFi and the hacking of video conferencing apps.
The challenge for many businesses is managing not only the growth of data but also the complexity of it. “They’re having to manage a data sprawl,” explains Hiu, “with old, fragmented data coming from a number of different places.”
Solutions: where cloud meets edge
The best in show here are inevitably the hyperscalers – the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple and AWS – whose tech architecture is built for data growth. “For hyperscalers, data is their goal, it’s their currency,” says Hiu. “And their architecture is really all about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The tracking of user behaviour is gigantic because what you do every single second is stored in order to perfect the search algorithm. The survey shows that a lot of enterprises have not yet figured out their optimal architecture, which is what we can help customers achieve.”
Enterprise data will remain stored in multiple locations: internally managed data centres; third-party data centres; public and private clouds; and edge data centres or remote locations.
Increasing amounts of data needs to be stored in edge locations.This is because of the cost-effectiveness of AI, the billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices deployed and the emergence of 5G.
Innovations in edge data centres are solving a lot of complexities but there needs to be a diverse approach to data management. It’s a case of ‘cloud with edge’ not one or the other. Enterprises often struggle with access to data in a public cloud so a hybrid-cloud approach with a private cloud has benefits including predictable economics at scale; IP ownership; protection and control; frequent access to large data sets; and compliance regarding sensitive data sets.
DataOps and the route to success
Underpinning good data management is DataOps, which is neither a technology nor a process but rather an emerging discipline of connecting data consumers with data creators to enable collaboration and accelerate innovation. According to the survey, only 10% of organisations reported having fully implemented DataOps so far, yet 65% view it as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important. So what’s the issue? Being able to correlate data from different sources is difficult.
DataOps is the practice of bringing disparate data systems into an understandable entity. At the heart of it is metadata management, data classification and policy management. According to Rethink Data: “Business leaders who implement DataOps can count on better business outcomes.” It leads to improved customer loyalty and satisfaction, better profits, higher revenues, lower costs and improved regulatory compliance. But it also leads to greater employee retention and productivity.
In short, DataOps deployed as a holistic data management strategy has a demonstrable bearing on a business’s competitive edge.
To learn more about how to make your business data work smarter, download a free copy of the Rethink Data report here.
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