Episode 1: Why A Modern Data Stack is Essential to Digital Business

Thanks to the preponderance of cooking shows in the UK and United States, most of us are familiar with the basic steps required to feed our family and friends: find the ingredients, prepare them per the recipe, put them together as directed, cook, chill, or otherwise transform them, and serve.

But what if you had to spend 80% of your precious prep time sourcing the ingredients, then putting them in the prep area, the critical “mise en place.” So much for creativity or special touches; time to settle for hamburger instead of filet mignon.

That’s the dilemma facing data and analyst teams charged with uncovering business insights cached in terabytes of data. But don’t despair — modern data management tools and solutions are streamlining data prep and management, giving analyst teams their best shot at delivering on the promise of data intelligence.

That’s the point of view backed by Niamh O’Brien, Manager with the Solution Architecture team at Fivetran. “I actually think the industry where it is right now is in a very good place from a technology perspective, and from a data skills perspective,” O’Brien says in Google Cloud’s podcast series “The Principles of a Cloud Data Strategy.”

“And really, what I see as the major challenge is actually resources, and resources in the form of both time and people,” O’Brien continues. “Most organizations are trying to modernize their infrastructure, but not at the pace that they should be. Data-informed decisions are no longer optional. And markets and world events are happening much too quickly to solely rely on gut decisions or experience-based decisions.”

Organizations really need timely, efficient, and reliable access to their data to compete and go cloud first, to make the right decisions quickly.

On the people side, O’Brien says the COVID-19 pandemic raised the bar for what people expect from their jobs. “So as we've seen, people are now looking for more interesting work,” she says. The problem is maintenance-heavy, complex legacy infrastructure. It’s a Top 3 barrier to becoming a digital business, according to Foundry’s Digital Business Survey 2022.

“Organizations that still have a high amount of maintenance associated with their infrastructure or that haven't started leveraging managed services … will really struggle to retain talent and to manage their business-as-usual operations efficiently enough to still have time for those more strategic modernization programs that are so necessary for them to be able to compete against their competitors and really succeed as a business.”

A Cloud-centric Approach

For modern enterprises, the cloud has opened an entire vein of possibilities to displace fixed on-premises infrastructure.

“What the cloud brings is cost effective and scalable infrastructure on which you can then build on your data projects,” says O’Brien. “You could have the best data science model in the world. But unless you have it in the cloud, where you can scale it to the resources that it needs, it's not going to be valuable to the business. It's like having the best car in the world, but not having the road infrastructure to drive it on.”