We are swimming in an ocean of data, but this is only meaningful and useful to a company if we can identify correlations, tell a story and improve our business effectiveness. This is predicated on our data needing to be of the highest quality, right from source. If we have good data and the tools to read it, then we become agile enough to consume new innovation as it becomes available.
Here are three steps we took at SAP to become data-driven:
- Clean up
- Focus on quality – data management
- Build technology and trust – data analytics
One of the first steps we took at SAP, and which we advise other companies to do, was to clean up our data. For example, as part of our SAP S/4HANA implementation, we work hard at getting rid of modifications and unused custom code. However, we understand that there is a small chance that we might need this unused code, so we store it for future use on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.
By stripping down our active data to as close to standard as possible, we embrace a single source of truth, liberate ourselves from legacy data and we make ourselves flexible and agile enough to benefit from new innovation.
We also focus on ongoing data quality maintenance. We have a dedicated enterprise data management team, whose role it is to maintain high quality data. This becomes more and more important now that we are using hybrid system landscapes with communication between on premise and cloud. Now that we share information across various solutions across the enterprise, we have to ensure that what we share does not hinder the business processes. If one process is running at lightning speed, while the other is running batch jobs, companies won’t realize the full potential of their real-time business enterprise. Planning the right enterprise information management strategy is an important step to achieving accurate, valid and timely access to information.
We have also built the tools we need to analyze our data. However, having the right technology is not always enough. The human element is also important. At SAP, we have built a centralized analytics organization, with an analytics business partner for board members and key executives. While the tools and technology are already in place, we also ensure that there is a level of trust and confidence in the analytics partnership. Since the analytics business partner acts as a consultant to the business, he or she is able to ask the difficult questions.
What does the future hold?
In the future, we will see data-driven decisions growing significantly. Everything will be fact-based. This brings a cultural change, because there are no more opportunities to fudge or blur facts. This transparency means there is a new quality of decision-making.
There will be no more frontiers or barriers to the type of data we can analyze – instead we will see a leap in new insights and new intelligence. CIOs have always called for good data scientists, and the need for these will only increase. We will be seeing a new kind of graduate; one that stands on the interface between science and business, and completely new careers. At this stage, we don’t know what we don’t know, but one thing is for sure: change lies ahead. The enterprises that have cleansed their data, focused on delivering quality data and found ways to analyze it both with technology and human intelligence, are the ones that will be able to ride the wave of that change.