Imagine taking a walk in a park and as you walk all the different objects you notice are both living and nonliving. You notice these objects using all the different sensory devices within a human body. Your brain processes that raw data into usable information and, more importantly, actionable information. Actions are taken; memories are recorded from sounds and images for later use. Think of how important those memories are to you, which is why we take pictures (which are extremely important to most people). The ability to store, retrieve, visualize, and conceptualize the data we try to maintain in our minds is of great importance to us all. We are at a turning point in history where, both in the personal and corporate world, data is the most important commodity.
Focusing on the business world, the data owned and held by a company is its most valuable resource. This is a bold statement, but it holds true in every company on the planet. Companies will partially acknowledge this but only to a very limited extent. Companies know that their client data, financial data, manufacturing data, etc. is important. But this is only a fraction of the data held by the company. It is estimated that only 20 percent of the data within a company is actually used for some beneficial function. It can be argued that there is much data that should be destroyed because it has no value, which is true. However, like an untapped energy source, valuable data containing a great spectrum of benefits is waiting inside the company to be used.
The road to realizing the benefits of harnessing a company’s data can be daunting and usually will scare most IT organizations from attempting it. This is mostly due to not quantifying the business benefits; thus, the justification is not there. One task for example that needs to be done is data classification. Business units (BU) do not like to hear about that project. However, it can be made easier with a commitment to project management and spending the time with the BUs to help them understand the great benefit they derive from data classification. This can lead to lower storage costs, easier access to data, finding documents faster, and decreased exposure to legal discoveries. That’s a reoccurring theme in the IT industry. We can render services that are essential to the business, and IT really becomes the business. So the solution is to make IT services a commodity, which allows the business to know the costs and understand the business value of IT.
This has all led up to an exciting new concept that could revolutionize the IT world, as much as the introduction of the cloud. In fact, it could be huge. If a group were created whose responsibility was to accomplish the tasks discussed above, they could eventually offer Data as a Service (DaaS). Imagine if all data and its location were known, data redundancy would be reduced or eliminated, and data classification would be performed. A data service catalog could be created that lists the data sources and types of data, how to access that data, and the costs if any. The data would be abstracted from the applications like compute, storage, and network services. Business units and developers would better understand what data is available and how they could take advantage of it. Or a new data source could be created in the data service catalog and be made available to all that should have access to it.
DaaS would open many new doors for the use of data owned by the company—opportunities that would otherwise be unknown. Applications would be developed fast and would interact in ways that they were really meant to—the sharing of data across the entire company. Even if your company takes a small step forward and catalogs a few important data sources and publishes them in a service catalog, you will realize large benefits. Eventually, this should be integrated into an enterprise architecture strategy where a data strategy is formed and a DaaS is constituted.
Digital transformation is mostly about the data. We can create new services from older manual services, create automation, and create better digital services from existing ones. However, it can be distilled down to storing, processing, and presenting data in different forms the business can use to provide better services to its customers and to help businesses make better, informed business decisions. Data and the use of data is what will transform companies and the IT world.