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PHOTO: Mpho Mojapelo

Data is the most valuable asset organizations have today. While most leaders understand the impact that fully leveraging this asset can have on their business —demonstrated in part by the 57% of enterprises that have hired a Chief Data Officer (CDO) — many struggle with how to turn data into usable insights that help them meet, and exceed, business goals. 

Minimize Risk with a Defensive Strategy

Historically, organizations have taken a defensive approach to data management. This meant they had a general understanding of their data and the regulations that governed it. But today’s rapidly evolving business environment requires more. With the amount of data being generated and collected increasing at unprecedented rates — Domo estimates that by 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second for every person on earth — defensive strategies have become much more complex and require more time and effort from IT teams.

Moreover, the regulatory landscape has seen a major shift, largely due to an increased interest in protecting consumers’ personal data. With this shift, organizations are required to not only be aware of industry-specific regulations, like HIPAA, but also the broader regulatory landscape as more industry-agnostic regulations, such as GDPR and the CCPA, take effect. 

These horizontal regulations are extremely prescriptive about how to collect, store and manage data, and require businesses to be able to demonstrate their compliance, essentially in real-time. Because of this, organizations must have a more comprehensive understanding of their data estate than ever before. And auditors are not the only ones thinking about compliance. Today’s consumers are more empowered than ever to ask about their data, meaning requests are coming in from all sides and failure to comply can lead to hefty fines and damaged reputations.

Related Article: Data Ingestion Best Practices

Maximize Business Benefits with an Offense Strategy

Taking a more aggressive approach to defensive strategies is only half the battle, though. To fully achieve digital transformation and succeed in the information economy, business leaders also must incorporate offensive strategies into their information management processes. Offensive data strategies allow users to go deeper into their data and understand not only what information they have, but where it came from and how much trust they can put behind it. Only once these questions are answered can an organization feel empowered to put their data to use in a way that adds value without risking non-compliance.

For many, this new territory requires a much deeper level of data analysis than existing processes. According to Gartner (paywall), identifying data that delivers value and scoping data management activities are among the biggest data-related challenges enterprises face today. A critical component of making these strategies successful is the data catalog. With a functioning data catalog, organizations have the information they need to confidently answer these critical questions, allowing them to develop an end-to-end governance model that delivers that confidence across the data estate. With these processes in place, users can use and analyze data to gather new insights that will allow them to improve existing products and introduce new ones.

Related Article: Emerging Data Needs Fuel New Data Management

Exceed Business Goals by Combining Defensive and Offensive Strategies

Developing an information management strategy that both revamps the defensive and incorporates offensive processes requires an overall culture shift for many organizations. Defensive and offensive strategies require access, agility and visibility — and the right infrastructure to support them. Businesses must provide users with the literacy, tools and processes to understand what data is available, how to access it and how to use it to innovate. 

Further, they must make it possible for all users to leverage data. Rather than relying solely on IT teams to both manage and analyze data, business leaders must invest in data lineage and governance tools that automate many of the more time-consuming tasks, especially those related to compliance. Self-service business intelligence tools also ease the IT team’s workload by allowing every user to feel confident in their abilities to understand and leverage data, no matter their role.

With so much data available and a rapidly evolving and uncertain business environment filled with breaches, government regulation and constant mergers and acquisitions, organizations can no longer choose to just manage their data and expect to remain competitive. They must leverage it to improve and expand product and service offerings and drive innovation. Only once they are managing data holistically, developing and implementing fully-formed offensive and defensive strategies that run in parallel, are they in a position to be able to handle whatever comes next.