Locating a competitive advantage in business has never been more important. Not sure where to look? We suggest starting with one of the most precious and valuable assets at your disposal: the data and information that got you where you are. Savvy businesses are already making the necessary investments to get the most out of their data. From customer information to competitive intelligence, a river of data is powering the leading businesses of today into the future. Those that are paying attention and turning data sets into a competitive advantage will win the most important markets. Those that don’t confront the business data challenges will invariably be left behind.
Whether your organization is brand new or generations old, the information compiled over time about customers, competitors, trends, interactions, and initiatives provides the insights for guiding your enterprise to new heights. In most cases, the strategy of what to do with all of this valuable data lives in the office of the CIO. Deciding how to best extract value from data is only one challenge. In pushing forward for the organization, the CIO must also preserve and protect the ever-increasing pool of data. The actions taken with the data, and how to wrangle it in the first place, ultimately separates industry leaders from those that sink into obsolescence.
The Top Four Business Data Challenges
Understanding the risks and pitfalls CIOs face when it comes to data is the first step towards a long-lasting information strategy. Here are the four greatest business data challenges faced by CIOs in today’s most competitive markets:
1. Security: How Are You Properly Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset?
Foremost on the mind of any company executive is the security of company assets. And if perhaps the most valuable asset is company data, then the security of that data is of paramount importance. Security isn’t just about infrastructure and connectivity but also includes answering the following questions:
- Who has access to our data? Why?
- What systems and applications are integrated with our data?
- What are the processes and controls in place to maintain our data security?
- What security appliances are in place with our partners and providers to insure there are no security leaks on their end?
- How are we keeping an eye out to insure our security strategy is actually effective?
- Who has the authority to change our security policies? When can those changes happen and how?
Understanding that security is a multidimensional, ever-evolving landscape is the first step in establishing robust data security policies. The key in securing data is to remain vigilant and expect the unexpected.
Tomorrow’s most pressing security threat isn’t even a reality today.”
Adaptability and proactive security practices are always the best way to address the security of your data. Recognize that data security is not only about who has access to your data, but also which applications and APIs have access as well. Where are the vulnerabilities in those systems?
2. Fidelity: Is Your Data Painting the Whole Picture?
If data security is the primary concern of today’s CIO then data fidelity is not far behind. In short, data fidelity or data integrity is the characterization of data sets as being complete and uncompromised. Lost data, corrupted data, or misplaced data can all impact a business in negative ways. Losing valuable data like contracts, customer information or billing arrangements can cripple even the mightiest enterprises.
One suggested way to address concerns of data fidelity is to implement sufficient backup or replication systems in conjunction with strong security policies. Having multiple copies of critical data combined with strict rules about who can and cannot modify or delete data is the means to a strong foundation of data integrity.
Use replication and offsite backups to insure data is preserved without compromise.
3. Accessibility: It’s Not Only About People Anymore But Applications And APIs As Well
Determining access to data is no longer just a question of “who” has access, but also “what” has access, and “when” that access is granted. Defining rule sets, checks, and balances around which employees are allowed to access which data is a great first step but hardly a complete solution. Your organization’s data is no doubt influenced and impacted by applications, APIs, and integrations. Properly establishing and documenting these interactions is also critical to protecting your data.
Even your authorized applications, like your team, should have well-defined and oft-checked access points instead of free reign over your data.”
Again, ask why, who, and what has access to your data and to what ends. Be detailed and deliberate about what checks and balances are in place to insure these integrations are moving your business forward and doing so in the right ways. Recognize that protecting data is not only about who has access to your data, but also the applications and APIs that have access as well. Have well-defined policies in place that determine how and why your data is accessed.
4. Integrity: All Of Your Data Is Critical, Even If It Doesn’t Seem So At First Glance
In its purest, rawest form your data may not be of use to you or, for that matter, anyone else. Just as oil right out of the earth requires refining to serve any practical purpose, your data most likely must be manipulated, distilled, and deciphered before it can be utilized for any real purpose. But along the way it is imperative that useful information not be discarded or ignored.
Just because your workflows and tools don’t recognize a certain set of data as being valuable today doesn’t mean that same data won’t be invaluable tomorrow.”
Ever-changing rules and regulations mean that to remain compliant across industries it is imperative that you stay current with the legal limitations. In some jurisdictions and with some data, you must ensure that all of your data be preserved, even if only in its rawest form. To contrast, Europe’s consumer-centric GDPR regulations require that companies delete personal data that has been collected without a specific purpose. Running afoul of the law or a regulatory body for not properly preserving and maintaining data can be an unwelcome and costly misstep. GDPR violations, for instance, can incur fines of up to 4% of a company’s global revenue.
Coping with Challenges Today And Into The Future
By surveying the landscape and preparing for what’s to come, even the most complex data environments can be managed into the future. It is the CIOs charge and obligation to properly position the company to find the most beneficial way to utilize data. But inherent in this challenge is making sure that data is properly structured, collected, preserved, and protected. Even the smallest misstep along the way can create a waterfall of negative ramifications that can set the organization back years. By properly acknowledging and addressing the challenges above, even the most complex data environment can be well positioned to serve as a competitive advantage for years to come.