Put data first and shift from a reactionary to a strategic mindset

Enterprise architects need to evaluate their enterprise data architecture from all perspectives to accelerate the delivery of business value.


“The biggest impediment hobbling existing initiatives and threatening the success of new ones is the finding, accessing, and analyzing of the data.”

Business priorities shift, processes become outdated and do not scale, and the speed of business innovation slows. The business complains about a lack of insight into the data. IT reacts by throwing a new application at the problem. The result? Data locked in another “application silo,” the by-product of a reactionary, rather than strategic, approach to the issue.

Because application-centric projects are driven by aggressive deadlines, there is never time or focus to address the overall problem of data discovery, access, and management. As a result, in many cases, data is the main bottleneck to an organization’s ability to deliver on innovation.

This model hasn’t scaled under ordinary circumstances. The cloud, social networks, mobile, partners, and machines promise to increase the amount of data delivered. Its complexity and the speed with which the data it is generated will also increase. At the same time, an equally burgeoning user base of data consumers will find it more difficult to access data in an efficient and effective manner. As they look to self-service for their data needs, IT will be further strained to meet their demands.

Change management

Something needs to change. The extent of the problem is documented by McKinsey in its 2014 report “IT Under Pressure,” which found that:

  • Business respondents report IT performance as declining.
  • IT respondents grade their own performance as declining.
  • And both sides are calling for IT management changes as a means of improving IT’s performance.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for enterprise architects. The biggest impediment hobbling existing initiatives and threatening the success of new ones is the finding, accessing, and analyzing of the data. To break this cycle, you must anticipate the needs of the business and design an enterprise data architecture that will actually speed business value delivery.

It is time to think strategically about a shared data architecture, with fast data onboarding and agile delivery. Another way to speed business value delivery is to enable business self-service through easy access to clean, safe, connected data.

Strategic imperatives

Your only sustainable competitive differentiation is your data and how you use it. This approach does not mean focusing on data to the exclusion of applications. But it does mean acknowledging that there is little market differentiation to be gained from packaged applications.

Enterprise applications are rapidly becoming commoditized. This means that it is time to give serious thought to your enterprise data architecture as the main source of your competitive advantage.

Here are two quick examples:

  1. Combining data from significantly disparate sources will result in the best and most useful analytical insights.
  2. Delivering superior customer service will hinge on gathering every detail about your customer, regardless of its source. Only then will you be able to create a complete picture of their interests, issues, and desires.

Technology disruption is responsible for the volume of data from mobile apps to machine data from the Internet of Things. Technology disruption opens the door to new business opportunities, new competition, and new complexities. And strategic leadership is an imperative.

Enterprise architects take a more strategic role by designing an enterprise data architecture that will provide a foundation for execution and a competitive advantage for your organization.

For more detailed recommendations, as well as specific reference architectures, read the ebook, “Think ‘data first’ to drive business value.”

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