Data has always existed in our world so why is it transforming markets today at an unprecedented pace? What technology changes in the past five years are enabling ubiquitous data to change everything? As a technology leader these are important questions to consider with your business partners. What business strategies should your company be putting in place to enable your business to harness the power of the new digital age?
As data is becoming ubiquitous the ability to “consolidate” massive amounts of information becomes important for companies to succeed. Enterprise architects should reconsider legacy data strategies that have become outdated in the last 5-10 years. As the IoT (Internet of Things) and scalable cloud storage come of age, savvy businesses have combined these advancements together with existing enterprise information and created complete, close to real time views of important value streams. Early adopters have gained the analytical insight to truly see what’s important to their markets and more deeply comprehend their customer base. Their ability to see clearly has shifted attention away from competitors towards customers and what they value most. Connected products that leverage IoT technology provide detailed insight directly into the customers’ world. This access has enabled businesses to save money through service productivity, offer better business experiences and offer customers back operational consulting. The future will be customer centric and all about the how suppliers can save their customers time and maximize their positive experiences. Given ubiquitous data availability from IoT, coupled with data consolidation technology at the enterprise level there exists an opportunity today to truly transform markets and the customer experience with the right technology strategy. The way data is collected, managed, leveraged and utilized across organizations will need to change in order to compete in the not too distant future.
So where should you start? In order to truly digitally transform I see five specific platforms that need to be properly implemented for enterprises to leverage data and participate in the historic changes taking place. A platform for sake of this discussion is a series of software components that provide the described functionality seamlessly. I will introduce each platform briefly and explain its importance to a digital transformation strategy and hopefully convince you to do some research and include this perspective into your digital transformation journey.
Data Consolidation Platform – The data consolidation platform (structured and unstructured elastic storage based on Apache Hadoop) is foundational to a digital transformation initiative. Creating a single source of enterprise data that has been cleaned is the basis for digital transformation. Leveraging low cost scalable storage and the accompanying open source functionality that surrounds it is powerful and comes at a very reasonable cost today. The functionality has materialized in the last several years to truly store everything in one place and clean up data that is sprinkled across the enterprise in disparate databases. Enterprises today can create one complete source of structured and unstructured data and use it to feed reporting, data science models and artificial intelligence. “Data Lake” technologies will enable true master data quality improvements and provide the opportunity to build an enterprise data repository that will facilitate digital transformation and drive the organization to use data for everything.
IoT Platform – The ability to connect to and understand the customer through a device is the basis for improving services, offering new business models and understanding what’s happening in the customers environment. Connectivity started the data transformation revolution. The ability to connect persistently (always on) or non-persistently (when customer allows) is the basis for understanding how a customer and the device is behaving in the real world. Connectivity allows real time machine data to be brought back, analyzed and merged with other internal and external data sources to “transform” your understanding of the customer and fully comprehend the operation of the device. This insight will inform internal operations and enable multiple new ways of doing business and transforming the customer experience.
Analysis Platform – Having data and getting it in one place are the first steps, unlocking its value is the transformational leap. The true value of data is proportionate to the maturity levels in your organization for using data. Analyzing and building insights into the business process is what makes business transformation possible. Learning to ask questions that look forward more than backwards and harvesting insights from the results is not a small shift in established corporate culture. Educating business leaders and subject matter experts to ask the right questions and use the data insights is just the first step. Augmenting those inquisitive business teams with embedded Data Scientists and Engineers is what will drive large scale transformation. There are so many tools that one can use to create models and analyze data so keeping an open approach to analysis capabilities is also prudent as the market and your business progresses. This is not the time to limit innovation with too much structure, it’s a time to let innovation take hold.
Visualization and Self Service Reporting Platform – The ability to see information and dig into the details enables the business to truly become self reliant and use data in everyday business processes. Self service reporting tools will provide the Business Analyst with the autonomy needed to generate key insights and reporting for the real time business. Shifting the reporting responsibility from IT to the business enables faster turnaround and focuses IT on other important efforts around data governance, security and data engineering. Choosing a visualization platform that allows critical models to be managed and distributed is an important part of the reporting eco-system. It is also important to design data governance and security processes in from the start to ensure that access to data is appropriate and risk to the business has been appropriately understood and mitigated.
Web and E-Commerce Platform – Having customers, field resources, intermediaries and partners interact seamlessly with your companies’ data and insights is the final piece to enable a transformed digital experience. Many companies today have a disjointed web and mobile experience that tests user’s patience at best. Clear communications and functionality that is designed to save the customers time and lead to good experiences will ensure future loyalty. Building a unified, well architected web and mobile experience will allow customers to get the information they need with ease and open communication channels through which your business can prosper.
Understanding these platforms and the relationships between them will become the foundation of any digital transformation initiative. Having enterprise architects understand the business strategy and determine how these technology platforms will be involved is central to the quest of digital transformation professionals. Give yourself the time to research and understand the technology options relative to your business needs. It is an exciting period to be a part of the historic transformation that is taking place in our world today!