by Gavin Michael

Four ways to rethink data sharing strategies

Feb 19, 20124 mins
IT LeadershipIT Strategy

CIOs have increasingly realised the importance of decoupling data from applications to deliver greater flexibility, but many are finding that a further step is being demanded—freeing data to be easily moved, shared, analysed, or integrated.

The demand is already there, and is growing rapidly as businesses realise the value of data, but CIOs need to cater for this by industrialising the sharing of data.

In turn this will help firms extract new value from it.

Consider the data currently held within a sales team’s CRM system. The same information has value for the marketing team, who could use it to map out customer loyalty trends.

Similarly, finance could use the information to calculate the cost of customer retention, while a product team may see the possibility of creating a new offering from it.

Some financial services firms are already fusing customer data, finance data and risk data to help spur the development of new products.

By shifting to a model where data sharing is industrialised, any part of the business could tap into whatever data is required, generating more and more value.

Right now, however, most data sharing efforts are ad hoc, leaving a patchwork quilt of integration systems.

A change in thinking for CIOs Data management needs to shift from being an IT capability buried within application support, to being a collaborative effort that enables data to be used far beyond the original application it was intended for.

Doing so is now possible because of advances in the technologies used to manage, process, and store data.

Many of these have been developed by Web pioneers such as Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, and Netflix as solutions for their own data-management challenges.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has noted that his company’s advances in data management helped provide the necessary architectures to develop its cloud storage and data management services—and to be flexible enough to respond rapidly to new ideas.

Getting such a transition right, though, requires CIOs to rethink a number of issues, from how data ownership and responsibility is handled, through to what skills are needed:

1 Rethinking data ownership Industrialised data sharing demands new ways to centralize the processes and tools for data management. At the same time, the notion of data ownership must become more distributed.

This involves upending the traditional world of data management, which views data as a structured asset and a cost centre. Instead, data management in a services-led world requires IT leaders to think about how best to enable the business to easily share and reuse any data they have.

2 Rethinking data responsibilities It also raises questions about data responsibility. With business units from all over the enterprise creating, consuming, combining, and sharing data, who takes responsibility for it all? No answer suits every case, so CIOs and their teams will have to look at working with individual business units to coordinate data responsibility from creation to distribution.

3 Rethinking data skills Making this transition demands new skills, too, with roles such as data curators, data scientists, and data stewards emerging. At a higher level, CIOs will need to consider whether to install a chief data officer role.

4 Rethinking data valuations From a business perspective, before data is shared it is important for it to be properly valued, and this concept is changing too.

Today, CIOs often think about the value of data in terms of what is required to store it.

In the future, the value of data will be determined by its use and business impact. For example, a retailer can use CRM data to improve market share, or an electrical utility can use electrical consumption data to propose usage-based deals for customers.

New uses for data mean new values for data. But what is most valuable to realise is that sharing data generates far more value from it, from enriching product development to strengthening customer loyalty and the ability to respond far faster to data-driven opportunities.

To read more about industrialised data services download Accenture’s Technology Vision 2012.

Gavin Michael is Chief Technology Innovation Officer at Accenture. Follow Gavin on Twitter @gavinmichael.

Pic: Fifth World Artcc2.0