The debate about 5G is now mainstream and we’ve referred to it a number of times in this blog feed, and although the discussion often focuses on the technology, the associated issue of importance is the data opportunity, and how we’ll use it to transform our world.
Self-driving cars, for example, are regularly referred to when illustrating the life-changing opportunities presented by 5G. Clearly, the technology that enables the massive increase in the necessary bandwidth is fundamental, but it’s the amount of real-time data involved in the safe operation of self-driving cars that represents the opportunities in front of us.
So do we need to wait for 5G in order to benefit from this data opportunity? Well, in the case of self-driving cars, I’d suggest yes, but if our business objectives are a little less ambitious, then most organisations today could realise significant benefits if they took a more proactive view about their data and how they manage it; if they recognised data as a business opportunity as apposed to a management and governance headache.
For example, our changing attitudes towards IT are informative when considering the role of data today. Previously IT was often viewed simply as a necessary back-office function, with limited strategic significance. Today, however, most businesses view it as a strategic asset that can be used to support innovation, build competitive advantage and drive growth. Has our approach to data changed in a similar way?
Without doubt, an increasing number of organisations are starting to recognise the strategic value of their data. Nevertheless, a more common attitude towards data is illustrated by the response to GDPR, which was, too often, seen simply as an additional management burden.
So just like past attitudes towards IT, which were split between those companies with a business model that relied on IT and those that simply used it, are our attitudes towards data today split in a similar way? Clearly we have data-centric businesses like Facebook, which would not exist if it weren’t for data, but amongst many other organisations, however, attitudes are more prosaic, with data being viewed simple as a bi-product of normal, day-to-day business.
So how can businesses change? How can they harness the real business benefits of data, just as many have done with IT?
Firstly, a company needs to be in full control its data from top to bottom, which, ideally, requires a consistent, policy-driven approach to data. Secondly, a data landscape that is fragment and sprawling is very hard to control and even harder to use in a proactive way for strategic benefit. And although many organisations have ended up where they’ve ended up due to legacy decisions made in response to legitimate, day-to-day operational needs rather than by design or intention, data silos outside management structures undermine compliance and standards of good practice.
Decision makers, therefore, should consider a more centralised data management approach that better enables them to control some very basic operational issues:
Such an approach not only represents best practice, but it also provides a more robust and reliable basis on which to proactively use data collaboratively, which, ultimately, unlocks its real value.
Whether we like it or not, the amount of data being generated is only going to grow. This can either be viewed simply as a storage and security issue or as a strategic business opportunity. If the latter is the chosen approach then a centralised data management strategy that supports the proactive and secure use of data, both internally and externally, will provide the best opportunity for success in our increasingly data-centric world.
Simon Lofthouse, CMO, Flexiion
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