Collaboration is Key to Reducing Pain and Finding Value in Data

This is a guest blog post, authored by John Zantey, Director and Co-founder, Qabsu

When it comes to cloud, being an early adopter does not necessarily put you ahead of the game. I know of companies that have been perpetually “doing cloud” for 10 years, but very few that have “done cloud” in a way that democratises and makes data accessible, with minimal pain points.

Cloud is an enabler. It makes it easier to collect, analyse, and disseminate information. But getting the best results requires a comprehensive strategy that supports the entire data and analytics lifecycle (i.e., collect, enrich, report, serve, and predict).

We know companies are gathering more data than ever. Globally, there are quintillions of bytes of data being generated and collected, every day. This presents both opportunities and threats. The threats are that it will overwhelm, confuse, and mislead, but the opportunities are endless and exciting.

I believe the measure of an organisation’s success is the ability to focus collaboratively on how to innovate and scale at a business level. Data is central to this, so when it comes to better data management, where should priorities lie?

Simplify and align business processes

It’s staggering how often we see departments within an organisation not collaborating. For example, it seems elementary that marketing and sales teams would share data for the greater good, but they frequently create departmental bubbles of information, at times working at cross-purposes. Of course, this may not be intentional and often comes down to poor communication and sticking to the status quo.

At Qabsu, we are often asked to help make organisations more efficient, but our focus is making them more effective. Because if you’re not effective, how can you possibly be efficient?

We strive to simplify the way data is gathered, break down silos, and align processes.

Our first step with clients is not exploring their technology. It’s exploring their business needs. We work with every level of a business, both technical and non-technical, to understand their relationship with data and the outcomes they are trying to achieve.

It’s important not to get carried away by technology for the sake of technology. Instead, focus on how technology helps in enabling and fulfilling the needs of your business and realise that. Domain experts can assist with business process workflows, data stewardship bridges gaps between business and technical teams, and ensure the technical work products are fulfilling the needs of the business. Data modeling can help bridge gaps between data engineers and data scientists. It takes a team approach and continual effort.

Democratise data and make it accessible to all

Simply put, companies that have democratised their data and access to it are the ones that are winning and reaping the financial rewards.

All employees, both technical and non-technical, should have the ability to use and understand data to identify opportunities and make business decisions.

However, broader accessibility does not mean broader risk. Data remains subject to the same security measures with all the correct guard rails in place to ensure both organisational and legal compliance for data protection and privacy.

Continually invest in education and training

While the cloud makes it easy for many employees to use data it doesn’t mean they are all ‘cloud experts’. Education and training is paramount. Just like you can’t be expected to drive an earthmoving truck in a mining quarry by only having driven on roads with a standard driving licence – you need to be trained how to drive data captured in the cloud.

Fortunately, there is constant innovation in the tools and capabilities of cloud technology, a case in point being Cloudera’s recent introduction of new analytic experiences which are designed to help data scientists do their jobs better and more effectively.

With each iteration in an organisation’s execution of strategy and implementation of new technological capabilities, there needs to be an allowance for training and education. Companies like Amazon and Cloudera provide amazing training with recognisable certifications. There really needs to be an investment in enrolling into these courses and in turn, certifying.

There are also softer skills applicable at all levels of management, such as data literacy courses that support data democratisation and enable technology to serve the needs of a business function.

Choose a cloud environment that’s fit for purpose

There are a lot of products out there for the cloud and making the right decision can be difficult. Being able to evaluate what you get and how to use them all together can be a project in itself. Technology providers are now starting to offer fully managed products with extremely rich functionality that fulfil a lot of an organization’s needs, and the ability to ‘price’ what you are getting is easier without hidden extras – which are typically discovered later in a project lifecycle.

Cloudera Data Platform, for example, offers deeply integrated and highly functional components offering a choice of either on-premise, in-cloud, or hybrid. A hybrid environment makes sense both from a strategic and practical perspective in large organisations that handle significant volumes of information. According to IDC, 84% of customers are repatriating workloads from the public cloud with 67% of applications in both public and private cloud environments.

The cloud selection process should involve looking at complementary components, or alternative components, that fulfill functional and non-functional needs simply and effectively.

As a first step, it’s worthwhile asking and answering these questions:

  • Who is the customer?
  • What are you buying and why?
  • Why choose a particular component over another?
  • Does it fulfill the need in a secure and (more importantly) a simplified manner?
  • Does it make sense to put it into the cloud?
  • What is the complete cost initially and ongoing?.
  • How will the platforms be controlled to not spin multiple production environments of the same things and therefore de-democratize data, and in turn complicate accessing data?

Understand costs and recognise the value in the cloud

Whatever the chosen cloud environment, it is important that organisations understand the complete cost model of what they’re getting into, not just at the cents per hour level, but what it will cost to implement and operate, what risks exist, and could be created along the way.

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