If you\u2019re like many of the customers I encounter, one thing is clear \u2013 data is the lifeforce that drives your business. Yet, the reality is that only a small percentage of businesses are out in front when it comes to being data-first. It\u2019s an urgent directive for IT organizations, with the opportunity for positive outcomes if you\u2019re prepared to take action now.\n\nLet\u2019s look at some of the pathways to becoming data-first.\n\nIdentify what\u2019s holding you back\n\nFirst, look for obstacles that are potentially holding you back. Once you recognize your biggest challenges, you can begin to transform your organization into a truly data-driven business.\n\nHere are some questions that I pose to customers about this very subject. As you consider your current state, answers to these questions will help you recognize where you stand:\n\nWhen you think about all these questions together\u2026 this is what is referred to more broadly as data management (the ability to store, access, move, and protect your data across its lifecycle as you unlock value from it). Data management issues vary from company to company, but it\u2019s the complexity you need to watch out for.\n\nIt\u2019s time to address data management complexity\n\nTo further shed some light on this important topic, HPE recently commissioned ESG to look into both how organizations are tackling data management complexities and what benefits the best-performing organizations achieve.* Their findings from 750 IT professionals were eye opening, starting with the role that data management complexity plays. \n\nIf you\u2019re wondering if data management complexity is a real, the answer is a simple \u201cyes.\u201d In fact, ESG learned that of the 750 study participants, 68% say the complexity of their IT environment slows down operations and digital initiatives. What\u2019s more alarming: 74% of respondents acknowledge their data management capabilities can\u2019t keep pace with business requirements.\n\nBusiness and IT leaders are well aware of the need for \u2013 and the benefits of \u2013 being data-driven as a key to their digital transformation success. It\u2019s why data-first modernization is a must for today\u2019s enterprise. But a complex web of fragmented software and hardware, including disparate management tools, infrastructure silos, and manual processes, is impeding transformational journeys. This complexity \u2013 which takes the form of complicated procurement processes, inflexible provisioning cycles, siloed data, constant firefighting, and more \u2013 is what IT leaders have to confront and eliminate as a top priority. \n\nThere are clear advantages to being data-first, according to that same study. ESG found that organizations that are data-first leaders are:\n\nFrom risk mitigation, to speeding the business, to happier stakeholders, being data-first has quantifiable outcomes for both business and IT. Yet, ESG found that only 13% of respondents could be considered data-first leaders. So if you\u2019re like most, there\u2019s likely work that needs to be done to become data-first. This is where we naturally come back to the importance of simplifying data management complexity.\n\nThe game changer \u2013 a cloud operational experience\n\nIn trying to overcome complexity, IT leaders now look to the cloud model \u2013 so much so that 91% of IT leaders in that ESG study agree that mature cloud operations on-premises is the single most important step to eliminate complexity. \n\nThe cloud operational experience on-premises is the ultimate game changer. The benefits of cloud are well recognized: self-service, pay-as-you go, scale on demand, and more. We\u2019re not talking here about making a move to the cloud, this is about getting a cloud experience for all your apps and data everywhere. This is why for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), our aim is to build in a cloud operational experience across our storage portfolio, including simplified data management, that is offered via self-service and available on-demand, enabling you to achieve as-a-service delivery and edge-to-cloud mobility.\n\nOnce the cloud operational experience is fully in place, line of business owners and developers can move faster than ever before, businesses benefit from app-centric operations, and infrastructure becomes effectively invisible. Remember, simplifying data management with a cloud operational experience is just one of the keys to accelerating data-first modernization.\n\nHow to get there \u2013 3 essential to-do\u2019s\n\nBelow are three ways business can accelerate transformation by simplifying data management \u2013all in an effort to become data-first:\n\nStill not sure where to begin? I suggest you take 5 minutes to assess your data management maturity.Whether you\u2019re well into your digital transformation journey or just beginning, it\u2019s worth understanding your progress toward simplifying data management and becoming data-first.\n\nIn the end, don\u2019t wait. Find a partner you can trust and discuss ways you simplify data management starting today to put you on a data-first path. No matter where you are in your transformational journey, know that partners like HPE are here to help you every step of the way.\n\n*ESG Data Management Maturity Study, commissioned by HPE, November 2021\n\nAbout Shilpi Srivastava\n\nShilpi is the Head of Data Services and Storage Marketing at HPE. With experience spanning cloud services, data storage and cyber security, Shilpi is passionate about technologies that help business innovate and succeed. Shilpi previously led cloud and container solutions marketing at Pure Storage and has held Product Marketing and Technical lead positions at Micro Focus and JP Morgan Chase. She has an Bachelor of Engineering degree from India and an MBA from University of Texas at Austin.