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IT Trends 2018: Managing the business value of data



By Kevin Leahy: Data Centres BU Principal Director, Data Centres and Mark Bregman: NetApp Senior Vice President and CTOesident Solutions Product Marketing VMWare

Data is defining the digital enterprise. Today it is essential that businesses maximise value by implementing incremental strategies that allow for the elegant use of data. There is little worth in data disappearing into an amorphous undefined space until its value is lost. Data is the key to unlocking efficiencies, transforming quality, delivering improved services, and redefining business parameters across all industries, sectors, and organisation sizes – it is the difference between the disruptor and the disrupted. This is one of the findings of Dimension Data’s Digital Infrastructure 2018 IT Trends.

This is why every company needs a strategic roadmap to maximise the value of data.

Changing data gears

In the beginning IT drove the back office – it was invisible and functional – then, as mobility and technology shifted into the mainstream, IT’s relationship changed. It became immersed in customer, employee, and organisational culture and the data that each touchpoint generated became an asset. Today, the organisation needs to leverage this data to transform, not just automate and improve, and to fundamentally change the nature of the business.

One of the triggers of this change is the availability and capacity of storage. In the past, there were limitations on storage and compute thanks to space and cost. However, as the digital enterprise emerges there are limitless resources available and the organisation isn’t constrained by space. The ubiquity of cloud and the variety of solutions that tap into the cloud allow for the comprehensive gathering and storing of all the data generated. The challenge now isn’t finding space to store the data, it’s extracting insights from the data that will effectively influence the business and the way it engages with its customers.

The question isn’t ‘where can I store the data’ it’s ‘how can data be used to drive the business advantage?’

The data asset

Data is the differentiator by which every business will compete and which will define their future. Organisations need solutions that allow them to collect, manage, secure, and protect their data as it evolves into a critical asset. An asset that will only grow in relevance as the organisation becomes increasingly digital.

A recent study done by NetApp, in partnership with IDC, introduced the concept of the data thriver. The data thriver is the organisation that’s proactively disruptive in the use of digital technology and not just a data survivor or data resister. In a world where every industry is at risk of being disrupted and dismembered by the agile business, the company that uses data to drive engagement and solution in new and innovative ways is the one that will thrive.

The challenge is to unwrap precisely what it means to derive business value from the data. The big data phenomenon may have opened eyes, but it also did a disservice to the concept of business value. Organisations have been battling with how to eke out a return and how to use it to deliver change. However, this is starting to change as organisations take a more pragmatic approach and they leverage data faster, use existing data more effectively and reach outcomes at greater speed.

The top industries at risk of disruption include utilities (29%), retail (25%), industrial equipment (20%), financial services (18%) and government (18%). Companies that use data to drive business and satisfy customers in new and innovative ways have only just begun to disrupt the market.’ – NetApp, Thrive Through Digital Transformation (DX), how Data Visionaries leverage the power of data.

Accelerating interactions

Defining the opportunity

There are numerous ways in which the organisation can activate and translate the value of its data. It can monitor infrastructure, using the data to determine if it is succeeding or failing. If it is failing, the data can deliver insights into performance, error rates, and user demand that can change how it is implemented. Software-as-a-Service solutions also provide a window into performance, allowing the business to compare the capabilities of one solution against another – analysing the data to determine the value and deliverables.

Data can be used to refine and define models of working, establishing what works today versus what may work in the future. In some industries, data could be placed in cold storage until its value becomes apparent – in the health sector, perhaps, as data reveals patient trends from the past which then inspires innovations that would previously never been possible. Allowing for dots to be connected far more quickly than ever before.

These are just some of the landscapes that data can paint as its value evolves and organisations uncover more opportunities and different perspectives.

Unlock the value

The ability of the organisation to unlock the value of its data is entirely dependent on its willingness to change perspective and mitigate the impact of legacy processes. Creativity in data can be hampered by processes that prevent growth and change.

The key to the data doorway lies in the organisation’s ability to:

  • Identify best practices in data usage to improve performance and reliability, reduce costs and open up new markets.
  • Identify new value streams – reuse data originally harvested for one business process to transform or create new business processes. An example would be how Tesla took the data generated by its customers and vehicles and used this to generate an entirely new business model – insurance.
  • Find a balance between limitless access to data and ensure it complies with regulation, legislation, and security. It’s a tricky tightrope as the business looks to create flexibility while retaining control.


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