Author Danielle Funston

Interop ITX and the State of Data Investment

May 08 2018 | Leadership

I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at Interop ITX this year, and it offered a unique peek into the state of data investment within organizations today. Alongside two visionary technologists from our community – Donald Farmer (CEO, Treehive), and Erick Watson (CPO, Quantarium) – I offered my perspective around the challenges, opportunities, and ultimately, the shift to understanding data as a high value business asset, a catalyst for deeper understanding of customer behavior, and true business value.

Ok, it was actually supposed to be about harmonizing IT and business, but our intuitive and innovation-obsessed host, Romi Mahajan, orchestrated a subtle path into a conversation about a true paradigm shift where IT and business are no longer thought of as separate. Rather, they are wholly integrated and leverage their unique perspectives and capabilities pointed toward a common goal: people and experiences first, enabled by and enlightened through data.

We began with a common understanding that we are past the days of convincing companies that an investment in capturing data is important. It was encouraging to look into the crowd and see so many eyes light up and heads nodding in agreement. This was clearly a group that was very familiar with the investment and infrastructure-heavy phase of the journey. Romi then posed the question that if companies really understand the value of data as an asset, why has it been such a challenge to unlock the actual potential of the data investment and start realizing tangible returns? Is the fundamental obstacle culture? Awareness? Infrastructure? A thoughtful and engaging exchange erupted in the room from leaders clearly hoping to unlock answers through collaboration. Our conversation led us to the conclusion that all of the above apply in today’s organizations. Companies need modernized engineering practices, governance models that facilitate offering data insights to all who need and can act on them (and effectively scale as data grows), and a shared understanding across business units of what data exists and how best to transform in to action.

Redefining the roles and capabilities of technologists at the heart of this movement can be an obstacle for many organizations, but also presents exciting opportunities for change. As a security professional, you may have been tasked historically with holding the keys to the data kingdom, which necessitated playing the role of guard—always on duty, questioning and defending against any request to enter. The data-centric future provides us with an opportunity to shift toward an enablement posture, constantly assessing and balancing data privacy and security tenets alongside offering as much information as appropriate and necessary to influence better business decisions. Adding in more data streams – such as data from IoT devices – introduces entirely new roles and skillsets in many organizations. Aligning business objectives, data, technical requirements, and regulations can get complicated as things change. This all takes time and often major organizational changes, but the clients we work with at Blueprint who invest in these changes are seeing immediate results in the form of operational cost reduction, increased revenue, and dramatically improved customer satisfaction.

In unpacking some of these concepts, there was an equal amount of desire and optimism among the attendees as we started to hone in on one of the issues at the core of “harmonization.” In most companies, a clear divide exists where “IT” is still a division, often directed to take care of stability in infrastructure, tools, and security. While all important areas of focus, these areas are still seen solely as IT’s responsibility. The business-user-enabled vision we’re trying to capture requires an understanding that these tenets for data assets are the responsibility of everyone within the organization. Business units should offer clarity on use cases and strategic objectives, allowing technologists to sharpen their application of business logic. This ultimately results in far more efficient and effective tools and solutions. Conversely, technologists can help to better educate business stakeholders around the technology tools, strategies, and risks to better fuse goals with feasible paths forward.

As we continued to discuss how to unlock the value of the data investment, a few foundational principles emerged:

  • Decentralized IT: Erick pointedly reminded everyone that the software development industry has been reaping the benefits of fully integrated technology and business teams for years. It’s a proven model to driving high value use cases.  
  • Privacy and Security: Arguably more important than ever, they are also not obstacles to a data enabled organization. Modern engineering and governance models should extend responsible data accessibility within organizations. Your business decisions and your relationship with your customers will improve dramatically when privacy and security are woven throughout every activity in your business, rather than acting as locked gates in defined corners.  
  • Data as an Asset: Like any other asset you own, protect, invest in, modernize, and make your asset useful in creative and valuable ways.

It’s easy to get excited about the ability to one day improve everything about your business and focus on what matters: your colleagues, your customers, envisioning and creatively crafting new ways to impact the world around you. All these things and more are facilitated by data and technology truly ‘understanding’ what you need, when you need it, and even anticipating and adapting to your changing needs. Imagine a world where you don’t have to ask for data to make a decision because of the intelligence you’ve built in to the fabric of your organization. These data-driven processes will offer you real-time, thoughtful insights every day and expose patterns that would otherwise pass unnoticed. All of this can happen without hours of meetings, thousands of hours in planning and organizational change, and ultimately a critical energy investment required from the strategic and creativity-driven people who could be spending that time focusing on priority business initiatives. At Blueprint, we believe that business—elevated and empowered by data—is an achievable reality. Many businesses are currently in the middle of their journey toward capturing competitive advantage through data. Blueprint is building the data – and ultimately, digital – strategy with companies of every size and industry. If your organization is on this journey, and you’re passionate about harmonizing all teams around digital transformation, reach out to learn more about how Blueprint can help unlock your potential and help you gain velocity.

As for Interop ITX, we’ll be back!

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