Editorial

Unlocking the potential of data

Dan Thompson, head of data services and engineering at Agilisys talks about the transformative power of data

Posted 5 January 2021 by

Data is the new oil

Whether you agree that data is the “new oil” or not, there’s no escaping the fact that it is crucial to success today. The good news is that there is more data than ever before. It is thought that this year each person on the planet generates an average of 1.7 megabytes of data every second. As a result of this year’s pandemic, the digital transformation of industries as diverse as healthcare, retail, blue light services and local government has been accelerated. Deployments that would normally have taken months or years, took days or weeks.

Data, and the insights that can be derived from it, gives organisations the ability to transform their services and the way they operate. You can’t protect what you don’t know is there. Therefore, by understanding the data you have within the business it is easier to close the gaps to potential data breaches. This is essential. The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) meant that a business that falls foul of a data breach could face a fine of €20m or four percent of annual turnover (whichever is greater).

According to IDC’s Digital Universe Study, only 0.5 percent of data was analysed as recently as 2012. Yet, by applying state-of the-art analytics to the data we collect today, evidence-based decisions regarding to cybersecurity and other business processes are being made day in, day out. These techniques have improved both the efficiency and quality of services businesses could deliver, while encouraging a 360 degree view of the data within the organisation.

Channelling the data effectively

There are multiple areas where data analytics can be invaluable, from shoring up cyber security defences to improving customer service. But how do you tap into the value of your data? Firstly, it’s important to consider how the data is currently stored. Is the data siloed or is there one single point of truth? Then, think about who needs to access the data. Does it need to be accessed remotely? Will locating the data centrally actually help? Will standardising the data make it more powerful? Finally, how will central data locations improve their business decisions?

Today, solutions are increasingly being devised and created in the cloud. And for good reason. The cloud enables existing disparate data sets to be funnelled and orchestrated into effective data analytics platforms that allows for data-driven insights. Only once you’ve got your data to the point where it’s migrated, orchestrated, cleansed, transformed and relocated can true business intelligence commence.

A modern cloud-based platform converts data into information and puts it at the data analyst’s fingertips so that they can make strong predictive outcomes. This provides opportunities to train the datasets and information stored in the Data Platform by applying machine learning and data science techniques.

Making the data transformative

Whilst they may be working in different teams throughout the organisation, those that are using the data week in, week out, know it the best. However, only by driving understanding through a clear data strategy of what can be shared and what can be distributed out from a central location, can the teams unlock the full potential of that data.

The data of today comes in multiple formats, most notably structured or unstructured. The latter is thought to account for between 80-90 percent of the total big data mountain according to Gartner. Data strategies, therefore, need to create a central repository, underpinned by cloud technology, where data can be ingested at speed. It also needs to involve collaboration internally, which allows any solution to be fully embraced. From that central point, insight can be built up using algorithms to train the data, generating prescriptive outcomes, or predictive analysis using new business intelligence tool sets.

It’s about unlocking the potential of the data. This fundamentally starts with not being scared and feeding those data sources into an environment that gives the business intelligence teams, together with the data analysts, to make the most of the data. It also gives them the opportunity to plug in new cognitive machine learning services, that further empowers the data analysts to show the senior leadership teams their vision of the future. Only once you get to this point can the sheer power of data – and specifically data analytics – be truly transformative.

Dan Thompson is head of data services and engineering at Agilisys