The priority of data continues to increase within modern enterprises, and the asset value of that data continues to grow as the amount of data captured expands. But the data itself, in isolation, only has marginal value. It\u2019s what the organisation does with it that matters, and that\u2019s why, for most CIOs and other data experts, the shift in conversation has been away from data in itself, to focus on the integration, and how it is leveraged into business processes.\nAt the same time, the past 18 months have been enormously disruptive for every IT leader, and the way data is stored and leveraged has not been immune to the disruption. In addition to addressing challenges on how the data is captured, stored, and utilised across a decentralised environment, IT leaders have also needed to shift priority so that the data itself is addressing challenges that have emerged from the changing way customers are interacting with businesses.\n \n\u201cIntegration solutions are advancing amazingly quickly,\u201d Accenture Managing Director, David Clayton, said in an exclusive video interview with CIO. \u201cThey need to be able to morph quickly to handle changing business needs and have the guardrails in place to ensure stability and security. They need to run on multiple platforms, and must facilitate decentralised development; without which, you're unable to scale. Perhaps most importantly, they've got to be catalogued and be accessible to a range of users.\n\u201cTo give you a common example, we've done some work with an organisation recently that had their business looking at the reasons that customers were calling in. And what they found was that many of the customer calls they were receiving was simply to find the status of their order.\n\u201cIn this case, the business was able to have a look at a published service catalogue, they were able to self-discover that there was a service that already provided status of customer orders. And this business was able to integrate that into an existing customer channel. And so, through their own innovation, they were able to greatly improve the efficiency of their call centres.\u201d\nMaking data accessible\nAs analyst, Gartner, notes, the shift of data and analytics from a secondary part of the business to being core to operation requires a strategic, considered approach to be effective. \u201cBusiness leaders are beginning to understand the importance of using data and analytics to accelerate digital business initiatives. Instead of being a secondary focus \u2014 completed by a separate team \u2014 data and analytics is shifting to a core function. However, business leaders often underestimate the complexities of data and end up missing opportunities. If chief data officers (CDOs) are involved in setting goals and strategies, they can increase consistent production of business value by a factor of 2.6X.\u201d\nAccording to Clayton, there are two core priorities that an integration team within the organisation need to have. One is to focus on the accessibility of the data; as more business units seek to capitalise on the organisation\u2019s data, its accessibility to them becomes a critical business concern. \u201cHow do you make your services truly reusable to a wide range of users, when they\u2019re not necessarily a deeply technical set of people?\u201d Clayton said. \u201cThe data needs to be catalogued. It needs to be self-service enabled. And in many cases, it\u2019s important to look for the opportunity to take advantage and make it accessible in a low code environment so that less technical users can integrate it into solutions.\u201d\nThe other key consideration is control. Part of this is security; the more an organisation leverages data, the more vulnerable it potentially becomes, particularly in decentralised environments running on hybrid cloud environments. But a more substantial part of it is simply making sure that the data is being used correctly and the environment has the capacity for it, Clayton said.\n\u201cHow do you provide capability that allows you to stay in control in an environment where you don't necessarily know your users or their profiles at build time?\u201d he said. \u201cOrganisations are focusing on things like API management capability, strong governance, capability, security, and enablement for cloud hosting, so that they can deal with unknown scalability requirements up front.\u201d\nData drives innovation and business opportunity, giving organisations insights, both internally and externally, into their business and customers. It can drive product and service development, unlock new revenue streams, and become the basis of efficiency-driving initiatives like business process automation and AI. For any data strategy to be successful, however, the organisation needs to lay the groundwork and ensure that the integrations are delivering maximum value.\nTo understand how you can get to value faster with cloud, visit\u00a0accenture.com.au.\nRead the first article of this series \u201cHow SD-WAN is delivering future-proof IT platforms to Australian enterprises\u201d here.