Despite the billions of dollars and countless man-hours being channeled into digital transformation, too many companies are spinning their wheels, buried in petabytes of unusable data. As a result, many are saddled with initiatives that do little to advance the strategic agenda or deliver value for the business.\n\nAccording to Forrester Research, companies are three times as invested in digital transformation as in other IT programs, yet progress is slow. Companies say they are still navigating the early stages of the transformation journey, and 70% admit they are underperforming \u2014 an indication that efforts have not met expectations or led to sustainable change, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research found.\n\nThe disconnect reveals an inconvenient truth: Regardless of how innovative or well architected the digital road map, transformation is incomplete \u2014 and likely unsuccessful at enterprise scale \u2014 without a strategy and an orchestration plan for data-first modernization that spans the data center, edge, and cloud.\n\n\u201cData modernization is all about starting the journey from business goals and thinking about your data first: what data do you need, where do you use data, or how can you make the most out of your data,\u201d explains Hande Sahin-Bahceci, senior marketing leader for Data and AI, HPE GreenLake Marketing. \u201cYet data architecture is typically an afterthought for most organizations. They start with modernizing infrastructure, then applications, and then data. What\u2019s required is building a data strategy and planning for data-first modernization at the beginning, not the end.\u201d\n\nPillars of data modernization\n\nWhy is data-first modernization so integral to digital transformation and, ultimately, business success? The answer is that without a proper modernization strategy, data remains in disarray and spread across legacy systems and multiple silos. This multigenerational IT sprawl creates significant hurdles for capitalizing on data\u2019s real value.\n\nFor example, there is new data being generated at the edge, which is essential for driving insights, but only a small portion is leveraged effectively as part of strategic data and analytics programs. At the same time, considerable data and systems are being pushed to the cloud, even though it isn\u2019t a good fit for all workloads and apps and can result in unforeseen costs, among other issues.\n\n\u201cNot having a modern data management system in place can lead to fragmented and isolated operations that aren\u2019t managed in a coordinated way,\u201d Sahin-Bahceci contends.\n\nTo steer toward data-first modernization, HPE advises companies to adopt these key principles:\n\nPlotting the path to data modernization\n\nThe journey starts with fashioning a comprehensive data strategy along with discovery of data assets, aligning everything with core business needs and KPIs. This exercise establishes that data is managed and treated like an asset while also providing a common set of goals. These objectives can then be leveraged across initiatives to ensure that data is used both effectively and efficiently. A data strategy should also establish governance policies and common methods for owning, managing, manipulating, and sharing data across the enterprise in a consistent, repeatable manner.\n\nWith data and transformation strategy in sync, the next step involves identifying all facets of the data landscape, including the ways in which analysts, developers, and data scientists can work with a comprehensive and consistent collection of data. Here, organizations need to hammer out mechanisms for adding new data sources in a manner that won\u2019t overwhelm IT and operations teams.\n\nIT leaders should consider several factors at this stage:\n\nThe next step is to unify, scale, and enable sharing of data with an edge-to-cloud platform. Creating a culture of trust is critical for sharing and unifying data. It\u2019s also essential to understand the genesis of data silos and how data can be shared across them to avoid costly data duplication.\n\n\u201cAll data must be available through the single, consistent global namespace, whether it resides in on-premises IT or in a public cloud or is distributed at the edge,\u201d says Sahin-Bahceci. Moreover, the democratization of data and analytics should be enabled by a platform that supports a broad variety of protocols, data formats, and open APIs. \u201cSecure authentication, authorization, and access control must be enacted in a consistent manner for different user types, no matter where data resides or on what system it\u2019s running,\u201d she adds.\n\nBringing the cloud experience to data\n\nAlthough the public cloud is valuable, a sizable number of applications and data cannot \u2014 or should not \u2014 migrate, due to issues concerning data gravity, latency, IP protection, performance, and even application entanglement. At the same time, although storage and computing capacity seems infinite in the cloud, costs can quickly skyrocket as organizations scale processing and analysis of key data. An alternative approach is to bring the cloud experience to data, which ensures the same speed, agility, and as-a-service benefits popularized by public cloud platforms.\n\nThe HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform delivers this experience to apps and data wherever they reside, whether that\u2019s at the edge, in a colocation facility, or in a data center. HPE GreenLake brings cloudlike services for data management, data storage, data analytics, MLOps, and high-performance compute\/AI, all within the context of a managed, pay-per-use, scalable, self-service experience.\n\nThe GreenLake edge-to-cloud approach to data-first modernization is already helping many organizations make the shift to next-generation operating models. Examples include a global financial powerhouse that can now streamline processing of transactions with a unified view of data and a manufacturing company that now garners efficiencies and quality enhancements by leveraging real-time analytics at the edge.\n\n\u201cThose organizations that continue to transform digitally are making data the life force of their organization,\u201d Sahin-Bahceci says. \u201cThese organizations tap data to inform business transformation, to change their business goals, and to shape their business vision. That\u2019s very different from the traditional enterprise that uses data as an enabler.\u201d\n\n\n\nTo learn more about the HPE GreenLake platform, visit hpe.com\/greenlake.