The CIO Playbook: 3 Steps to Bridge the Data Divide

Laurent Bride

Laurent Bride, CTO, Talend

Many businesses today are scrutinizing their operations to figure out how to join the digital transformation revolution. They understand that to become more competitive and customer centric, they need processes that are flexible, integrated, insightful and scalable. They understand harnessing data and infusing business processes with it is the key to success.

Unfortunately, poor data management practices, which cost businesses $3 trillion a year, according to a Harvard Business Review article written by Thomas C. Redman, are often overlooked as a key blocker. When it comes to the impact caused by poor data quality, the figures speak for themselves.

To turn that enormous loss into opportunities, CIOs need to better operationalize data at enterprise scale — putting qualified, clean, reliable data into the hands of more employees for them to then analyze and make informed decisions quickly. With the new emphasis on agility through digital transformation, CIOs now have the power to enable rapid change within their businesses by developing digital strategies with data at the core. These leaders have to change the departmental view that data is solely an asset used primarily by data scientists and to expand it to encompass data use by the entire enterprise.

Before CIOs can enable greater insight through self-service, they need to rethink their roles within the broader organization — shifting from simply being a caretaker of utility-type technologies that run the business to being a facilitator that helps users leverage data to gain insights.

CIOs and IT leaders need to create a foundational roadmap that:

  • Ensures data integrity
  • Provides self-service tools and data access for all employees
  • Incorporates a flexible, open platform that can easily integrate with future technologies

Digital transformation doesn't just involve the technology a company implements or says it's going to deploy to be more customer centric; it also means making sure enterprise data is clean and accurate. It means ensuring that enterprise data is easy to find, analyze and share.

Ensuring Data Integrity

Corporations have spent years and billions of dollars trying to create better internal data systems by building centralized data warehouses using integration appliances to eliminate data silos. But these efforts focused solely on integrating internal systems and often neglected to include the multitude of cloud, social, internet of things (IoT), smartphone and other external applications or unstructured data sources that generate massive volumes of information.

As these new external datasets and applications are incorporated into enterprise data lakes, CIOs need to determine the best way to ensure the accuracy and integrity of this data, while also providing broader access to it. Without solid data integrity practices, bad data will continue to thwart a company's digital transformation and hinder its competitiveness.

Bad data practices often lead to hours of lost productivity. For example, according to Redman's article, "Salespeople waste time dealing with erred prospect data; service delivery people waste time correcting flawed customer orders received from sales. Data scientists spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning data; IT expends enormous effort lining up systems that 'don't talk..' Senior executives hedge their plans because they don't trust the numbers from finance."

It's time to include those who handle customer data on a daily basis to help maintain its quality. It can no longer be just an IT department function. New self-service solutions are equipped with intuitive interfaces such as Excel that make them familiar to non-data experts. Most of these solutions can automatically recognize common errors in datasets, such as errors found in email addresses, phone numbers or postal addresses, and guide users through the necessary actions to correct them.

Quality, Accuracy and Universal Access

CIOs are ultimately responsible for making sure enterprise information is available, accurate and secure. Additionally, new mandates such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require CIOs to track data throughout its lifecycle to ensure that it remains accurate across all uses, that it is only accessed by those with permission and that it is recognized when it is updated — no matter where it resides within the enterprise.

That's a tall order when you consider the petabytes of data flowing in from many sources, adding to the petabytes more companies already have stored. Add to this the problem of poor customer consent management and opt-in practices, which have led to 534 million personal data records being compromised since 2005, according to The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

In the age of GDPR, decision makers will need to know about the data's heritage and accuracy, and this information can be best provided through a central data catalog that helps with the data's auditability, governance and accessibility. This catalog should have a unified access point that allows users to access any data they need to better inform their daily business tasks.

Data for All

While keeping information secure and reliable is a top priority, today's IT leaders also need to understand they can no longer afford to be a gatekeeper to a company's data treasure trove. Forward-thinking companies understand that everyone should have access to the corporate information he or she needs to unlock insights that will drive the business forward. They understand there should be no restrictions on data volume, data availability or access.

Because not everyone has a degree in data science, CIOs need to enable access to enterprise data lakes using a variety of easy-to-use, self-service applications and tools that provide data manipulation and analysis expertise to business users. They also need to integrate intelligence into data management applications and workflows to help users better leverage advanced technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing.

Scores of data warehouse projects have failed because business users didn't have access to the data they needed when they needed it or did not have easy-to-use tools that helped turn that data into insight, which ultimately thwarted the widespread use of data by employees. CIOs seeking digital transformation through business user empowerment must be mindful of these previous pitfalls and navigate around them to be successful.

Future-Proof Platform for New Technology Integration

The pace of technology innovation is accelerating, and most companies admit they find it hard to keep up. Today's organizations need to take advantage of the very latest cloud and big data technologies — including Apache Beam, Hadoop, Spark, Redshift, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Kinesis and Microsoft Azure — to connect and process data at speed and scale.

When architecting an enterprise data strategy, CIOs need to think about selecting a platform that is flexible and open. They also need to focus on providing a platform that can easily integrate with future technologies. Using an open source platform helps CIOs avoid lock-in with a single provider and the high-resource expenses associated with proprietary software and systems. It also helps ensure your IT backbone will continue to keep pace with rapidly evolving and emerging technologies because open source products are backed by a global development community that inspects, scrutinizes and, most importantly, constantly improves their functionalities.

Additionally, it's worth noting that open source technologies have been endorsed and used by large corporate vendors (for example, IBM, Microsoft and Google, all of which are big players in Apache, Hadoop and Spark) and that many open source technologies are backed with commercial support.

Keys to Digital Transformation Success

With visibility into all parts of a modern business, CIOs can unify business leaders and IT under a clear data roadmap. They can be the catalyst for data-driven organizational changes that will help their companies remain competitive.

By ensuring data integrity, providing self-service tools and applications that can be accessed by all and adopting flexible, future-proof platforms for development, CIOs will have a head start in achieving their digital transformation goals.

Laurent Bride joined Talend in 2014 as Chief Technical Officer. He came with 17 years of software experience during which he held various individual, management and executive roles in customer support and product development. Most recently, Laurent was CTO at Axway, where he was responsible for R&D, innovation and product management. He has also spent more than nine years in the Silicon Valley, working for BusinessObjects and then SAP. Laurent holds an engineering degree in mathematics and computer science from EISTI.

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