Why You Need a Cloud Data Council

A cloud data council is essential to maximizing the benefits of cloud data services while minimizing risk and cost

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The cloud is becoming the de facto choice for hosting data and analytics, with Forrester Research reporting that almost half of all organizations are complementing their in-house platforms with cloud services. Gartner Inc. predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 17% this year to $266.4 billion, declaring that cloud adoption has become “mainstream.”

These cloud technologies generate unique and differentiated insights into everything from market trends to the health of industrial equipment. Enterprises can use these to cut costs, improve product quality, increase customer satisfaction, and build new revenue streams.

A truck manufacturer, for example, could use location and driver behavior data to help fleet managers fine-tune their routes and improve training. A maker of smart bandages could use data about a patient’s condition to help them better manage their care. Cloud-based technologies such as data lakes make such services possible by analyzing larger quantities of both structured and unstructured data in new ways and making the insights available to more stakeholders.

Cloud technologies also eliminate the need to buy and manage in-house IT infrastructure, reduce businesses’ technical debt, and enable them to more quickly scale to compete in a digital economy.

But moving to the cloud is not a simple “lift and shift” operation. The cloud can rapidly scale to store much more data, from many more sources, than in-house data centers. That data will be used in multiple ways by many more internal and external users. This requires careful management to assure that data is secure and compliant and that the investment is done most efficiently, storing only the highest-priority data on the fastest but most expensive platforms.   

A cloud data council is essential to maximizing the benefits of cloud data services while minimizing risk and cost. It can help understaffed IT departments understand how business-critical data moves within and outside the corporate firewall, including time-sensitive data flows from mobile devices and sensors on the Internet of Things (IoT). It can drive adoption of and assure the most efficient use of cloud data services, but requires broad involvement from business stakeholders that may include legal, lines of business, and compliance as well as IT and Data Science leaders.

Cloud Data Council Essentials

A cloud data council should perform five essential governance roles:

  1. Assuring proper security and compliance, implementing policies ranging from encryption to data access and deletion. The cloud provider can often provide security to the infrastructure-as-a-service layer, while the business manages application-level security as access control and authentication.
  2. Democratizing data access and providing flexible data access through open platforms and marketplaces in which multiple organizations can share data.
  3. Collaborating with other functions such as procurement to assure the most cost-effective use of cloud resources.
  4. Providing best practices for collaboration within and outside the enterprise to solve business problems.
  5. Creating and managing processes, workflows, and metrics to ensure the council executes its cloud data modernization plans, monitors their results, and adjusts them as needed.

To meet these goals, a cloud data council should include senior representatives from functions including:  

  • Risk management, to provide a global perspective on the risk versus the value of sharing data with customers or business partners.
  • Business operations, to understand how new ways of sharing and using data will affect every day processes.
  • Data analytics, to understand what’s possible with the latest data analytics tools and what is required to use them effectively.
  • Security, to assess the capabilities and vulnerabilities of cloud providers as well as business partners with whom you may share data.
  • Finance, to understand how “on demand” cloud spending affects budgets and to help identify how data can be used as a saleable asset. The finance function can also tap the cloud’s ability to track how different business units use cloud resources, allowing more accurate  chargeback of cloud spending and more precise measurement of ROI.  
  • Lines of business, to focus cloud spending on increasing innovation, reducing costs, maximizing customer retention, and creating new revenue flows and business models.
  • Cloud data providers, who can provide guidance on what data is best moved to the cloud and how to tap it in innovative ways based on the experience of other customers.
  • Professional services firms, who can advise which features from which cloud providers can best meet your needs. For example, we recently advised a customer to move just their optical character recognition function to a different cloud provider to achieve greater scanning accuracy.

Begin Your Cloud Data Council Journey

The first step in creating a cloud data council is working with a partner to assess your current level of cloud adoption and the challenges you’re facing in cost management, security and compliance, data sharing and collaboration. Next, decide which of these is the most critical, and create a road map for how your data council can help you reach those goals.  

Today, many de facto cloud data councils perform limited functions such as monitoring cloud usage and security and creating policies and governance structures. As your cloud usage becomes more mature, we see these councils developing a deeper understanding of:  

  • How to quickly identify and change potentially wasteful practices and policies.
  • Best practices in collaborating with business, IT, and finance stakeholders.
  • Benchmarking costs against others in the industry.
  • How to prove that insights driven from enterprise and external data drive faster and better decision making.
  • How enterprises can invest in newer business models to generate additional revenue streams.

Successful digital organizations use modern cloud platforms in ways never before possible. But to drive the maximum business value from them, they need to expand the membership, scope, and skills of the stakeholders that manage their data.     

To learn more about how Cloud technologies support data modernizations initiatives, please reach out to us at DataModernization@cognizant.com.

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