Organizations that implement successful data enablement initiatives can increase revenue by an average of 5.32% and reduce expenses by an average of 4.85% according to a study by Enterprise Strategy Group. So why are successful data projects so challenging? Smart people plan and execute data strategies using the latest technologies from leading solution providers. Their purpose is often well defined – find new ways to create value from existing business information. And that seems straightforward enough. However, the practical reality is that there are many data stakeholders and operational considerations for even the smallest data initiatives making it difficult and elusive to achieve success. The root of the problem is that every source of business data is unique, with specific requirements, and most data stakeholders are not cut from the same mold. Information is the true value of data, which can exist in countless business systems within an organization. Individual data consumer expectations are evolving in how they find, use and collaborate around information; and the consumer experience of search, social, and mobile has caused a shift in expectations while at work. The future of work is democratizing data and everyone has become a data citizen.
Data transformation projects tend to focus on two trends: consolidation into centralized data lakes and cloud data warehouses like Snowflake or Databricks and data analytics using Tableau or Looker to create dashboards. If successful, these initiatives enable the organization to find new insights from a wealth of data points. Data consolidation has many clear advantages, the most obvious is the ability for analytics to quickly find insights from very large data sets. In many use cases, the data warehouse is a workhorse for data engineers and indispensable for managing very large datasets. However, what is often missing and overlooked are the needs of the business teams and the information worker to get access to use as much of the business data as possible in modern data applications and workflows.
How To Do More, Not Less With Data
The ability to do more with existing data should resonate with everyone. And it might just be easier than it sounds. ESG found that 91% of organizations believe they are in a stronger position to compete and succeed given the right data. The starting point is to accept that information should be accessible to everyone from where data lives, in a simple and secure way.
The Achilles heel of enabling access to business data from where it lives is security. Each data domain uses its own security and privacy to ensure compliance with business and regulatory policies. Most organizations operate in regions of the world subject to consumer privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, requiring a security-first approach. The sheer variety of business data requires a uniform and holistic approach where security is decoupled from the source to provide a consistent level of authentication, authorization, and privacy. And the approach requires security and privacy at the data element level as well as attributed-based access to enforce who has access to what. This can only be achieved through a common control plan that provides the authentication, authorization, and policies for each data source.
The third leg of the data enablement stool is a suite of tools designed for everyone, not just for technical users. The modern information worker should not be expected to understand the nuances of data structures, analytics tools, or algorithms. They should be able to find, use, and collaborate around business information through a set of tools that are familiar and simple to use with powerful results. This starts with basic discovery and visualization. It should be possible for anyone to simply search across any business data to find what they need for their role and specific tasks. The actual source and structure of the data should be abstracted and not be an essential piece of knowledge or barrier.
The next piece in the data puzzle is how data is retrieved. The most common method of reading data whether it’s structured, semi-structured or even unstructured is through SQL commands. SQL is the language of business data and the language of data engineers, but not the language of information workers. Any solution that aspires to bring users closer to data needs to offer tools that require no SQL coding. Tools should speak in the terms of the user and translate the requests into the specific version of SQL for each data source. The ugly truth is that not all data sources are fluent in the same SQL language. The final step to operationalize business information is to provide the ability for everyone to build simple models and applications that format and present the information in a way suited for their needs. These should not require special skills, but rather should use no-code techniques and components to allow anyone to build what they need.
Could Data Enablement Be That Simple?
This is not a futuristic concept but something that is achievable today. Datafi is an enterprise software company offering a cloud-native solution that connects virtually any business data no matter where it lives through a common control plane, also referred to as a data mesh architecture. The solution has been designed for business teams to use a familiar suite of tools to discover, operationalize, and analyze existing business data through a consumption-based service where customers pay for what they need.
Datafi addresses all three legs of the data enablement stool in a Data as a Service solution that makes any business information more accessible and meaningful for everyone. The benefits of enabling data access for everyone are clear – the right person has the right access to the right data at the right time. Successful data enablement initiatives increase the data knowledge of the entire organization over time and data-driven outcomes become the norm rather than the exception. The speed at which business decisions can be made by more people begin to differentiate organizations that have embraced and committed to finding ways to do more with their existing business information.