Big Data, Reservoirs and an End to the Culture War

Seattle Municipal Archives“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” management guru Peter Drucker used to say. The point being this: The hardest thing to change about any organization is its culture.

For instance, when it comes to managing business data, analytics and reporting, IT professionals and business managers are locked in a culture clash that makes executing on strategies difficult – if not impossible. And that’s a big problem for any organization that wants to use Big Data to get to data-driven decision-making.

Businesses have always had a thirst for information. At first, it was important to the operation of the business to have the latest and greatest intel on what competitors were doing. Today, business intelligence serves as the foundation for many — if not all — business strategies. The better the insight, the greater the chance of success.

What It Means for IT

Historically, IT departments have favored the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) as a means to organize and share data. The “single canonical form” is a traditional approach to centralizing and managing data assets, but it can be cumbersome and inflexible. More and more, business managers are pushing for decentralized tools that are highly accessible and easy to share, like Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and point products, and that offer better data quality.

IT has limited ability to influence its business counterparts, and it has the cost of data storage and management to worry about. Add to that the fact that there is more data today, moving more quickly, and has greater promise for value – if you can unlock it. What IT people need is a framework that’s flexible enough to support both structured and unstructured in a cost-effective way, while still adhering to established governance rules.

Culture Matters

One possible solution is still fairly theoretical: Create a reservoir of business data. It’s a metaphor worth looking into. A business data reservoir could use Big Data and virtualization technologies to store and move data in a cost-effective way. It could also enable business managers to build on their departmental solutions, while still operating in a framework sanctioned by IT.

We like this idea because it lets IT managers and business users meet in the middle, providing a more accommodating architecture that makes it easy to:

  • Add new data to a structured environment, using a flexible data model that can pull from departmental data marts.
  • Connect to external data, including web content, news feeds and spreadsheets.
  • Enable multiple views of the same data, using federation and virtualization with systems of record.
  • Capture and embed intelligence using data definitions and analytics, to make it easier to interact with data and derive insights.
  • Get to analytics more quickly, with better results. Data is cleaned and available from a system of record, and the same data is available to all reporting tools. A data reservoir could also enable ad hoc reporting, for greater agility.

At its heart, a business data reservoir is not simply a technology move. It’s about changing the culture of IT to better match the business culture. And it promises to help businesses of all types operate more efficiently at a global scale.

Image credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

Posted in Big Data, Data Quality, Sales & Marketing by Lisa Petrucci

Lisa Petrucci is Vice President of Dun & Bradstreet Global Alliances and Partnerships.

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