Today, an organization’s competitive advantage is directly determined by how rapidly it turns its data into meaningful insights that drive business outcomes.

Economic pressures compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that business leaders are fighting for relevancy – and it is the CIO who holds the key. That’s because today an organization’s competitive advantage is directly determined by how rapidly it turns its data into meaningful insights that drive business outcomes.

But there are challenges. In the data decade, when data is expected to hit 175ZB worldwide by 2025, less than 0.5% of the world’s data is actually analyzed. The reality is that while organizations amass more data, this growth rate is exceeding their ability to truly harness the insights.

In fact, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dell Technologies found that 72% of businesses in Singapore are gathering data faster than they can analyze and use, and 89% are experiencing barriers to capturing, analyzing and acting on data.

There’s no doubt that enterprises understand that access to quality data is the spark that will ignite better customer and business experiences. Many are also trying to realize the full potential of their data to get a competitive edge.

With emerging technologies disrupting and reinventing customer experiences across every industry, increasingly empowered consumers are now demanding more data-rich, personalized experiences – which create rich opportunities for organizations to innovate.

CIOs face no shortage of competing projects and priorities, but picking the right areas to advance is critical. Businesses can embrace their digital futures, accelerate the cycle of innovation and create competitive differentiation if they refocus and commit to conquering three key challenges.

  1. Data sprawl: distributed, diverse and dark
    Unfortunately, today’s data management approaches are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the data era. For example, CIOs need to embrace data siloes as we move away from centralized data strategies. This data sprawl is being driven by increasingly distributed data as IoT technologies fuel edge computing.

    Gartner predicts that 75% of all enterprise-generated data will be created and stored at the edge by 2025. As the number of edge locations generating data grows, centralized data strategies that transfer distributed data to the cloud simply won’t be able to keep up with the real-time demands.

    Meanwhile, the majority of data stored is never even used to drive business outcomes, it is gathered and archived among the data deluge. This is dark data and its prolific growth demonstrates the struggle to harness the value of data.

    To add to this predicament, the new demand for real-time data is set to spice up data management over the next 5–10 years. With data use becoming more sophisticated, the spotlight is truly on data management. Yet, Forrester’s research revealed that 40% of businesses in Singapore are still considered “Data Novices” – meaning that they are overwhelmed by data volume and variety, and lack the right skills and tech infrastructure to manage data efficiently.

    This growing complexity has implications for regulatory and security compliance. In an increasingly connected world, with edge computing locations multiplying, there is an increased surface for attack – especially in today’s hybrid work environment. This makes it increasingly important for businesses to stay on top of compliance, even as the pace of change quickens.

    To rethink and transform data management for the data era, CIOs can take on a few key actions:

    • First, they can democratize business data so that teams can easily find and access the high-quality, production-ready data sets they need to perform in their roles.

    • Secondly, CIOs must give data engineers and data scientists easy access to the tools they need to deliver valuable business insights.

    • And finally, they must modernize their IT infrastructure to meet data where it lives, at the edge – ensuring consistent deployment and management of data, applications and infrastructure across the entire IT landscape.
  2. Taking innovation to the edge
    Gartner predicts that by 2022, more than 50% of enterprise data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud, up from less than 10% in 2019. Going forward, most data will be generated at the edge to be processed in real-time, spawning a new era of innovation the likes of which we’ve never seen.

    In Singapore, these edge innovations have already come to life in the form of telehealth, autonomous robots for law enforcement and more.

    As data creation accelerates towards the edge, IT teams are being asked to deliver these real-time, quality-of-service, fraction-of-a-second functions in decentralized locations. Transferring distributed data to centralized infrastructure in a data center or public cloud to process and analyze the data in a timely way is not always practical, and organizations are beginning to realize that.

    Instead, moving infrastructure closer to edge locations where the data is being generated and needs to be acted upon is key.

    Organizations now face the challenge of achieving a consistent infrastructure and data management approach across core to multiple cloud providers and large number of edge locations – and the challenge continues.

    Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are creative approaches that CIOs can adopt to overcome these challenges:

    • Establishing a single operational hub from the core and hybrid cloud out to the edge and connecting it to an increasingly pervasive number of devices will help to promote consistent data management.

    • Building and maintaining a consistent development environment to build, run and manage modern apps is key as well.

    • Investing in secure infrastructure edge management platforms, apps and devices is needed to enable the generation and processing of vast amounts of data.

    All of this is not possible without knowledge of the edge ecosystem – an education in this area will help CIOs understand how to tailor solutions most effectively to their business needs.
  3. Empowering people: setting culture and getting the team right
    To reap the full value of business data, time needs to be applied to data innovation and monetization. This highlights an urgent need to reinstate the value of innovation as a business-critical function that must be prioritized, cultivated and celebrated.

    It also shines a light on the mix of the many teams and individuals that often work with an organization’s data – often representing different parts of an organization with a unique set of objectives. A scattered approach to data teams makes it difficult to provide a focused and coordinated approach to data management.

    In Singapore, 71% of businesses cite insufficient in-house data science skills and resistance to change from internal teams as some of the key challenges to data management. But throwing more data scientists at the problem isn’t the answer – most organizations are missing the key data roles and skillsets they need to become an intelligent business.

    Data scientists are highly skilled, specialized and in demand, so they are a rare and expensive resource for most organizations. This makes the effective use of their time even more important. CIOs must not only commit to ensuring their data scientists’ time is spent on specialized tasks that deliver high value to the company, but also educate their internal teams on how to work effectively with the data scientists to improve the organization-wide approach to data management.

When these three challenges are addressed, businesses will be better positioned to adapt to the demands of emerging technologies and consumer trends. With the right infrastructure, data management strategy and people in place, any business can thrive in the data era – but they must unite in their desire for innovation if they want to uncover and capitalize on the true value of their data.