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June 10, 2016

How self service data is evolving the role of IT

Briefing: Helping IT overcome bottlenecks to enable the business to effectively use data.

By James Nunns

The growth of the big data market has seen businesses struggle to deal with finding the right processes to manage and analyse data.

This is often leading to bottlenecks that slow the businesses ability to effectively use their data.

Part of the problem is not understanding what should be under IT’s control and what should be controlled by the line of business or perhaps a Chief Data Officer.

Adding to this issue is the increased uptake in self service data, which is a way to enable business users to access and work with data in order to improve how they go about their jobs.

CBR talked to Jean-Michel Franco, product marketing director at Talend, a company that specialises in big data integration software, about the challenges facing IT when it comes to self service data.

Jean Michelle Franco

 

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CBR: What impact is self service data having on the IT department?

Franco: "The main thing is that IT has to evolve its role from being a provider and supplier to an enabler. They have the opportunity to become a change agent to support the user to be autonomous on their way to access data.

"This requires a move from ‘I’m the provider, you’re the consumer’ to ‘I need to empower,’ so rather than being a guardian, IT needs to be the one that provides the users the capabilities to do it by themselves."

 

CBR: Is IT open to the change?

Franco: "It depends, we see some willingness for change but also some resistance. All is about finding the right balance between empowerment and control. IT is pretty open to let users do some tasks like discovering data that is pre-organised and pre-modelled and then do the reports and the analysis on their own.

"Having a role which is more upstream is more of a challenge, when it’s a matter of maybe connecting new data, applying some data quality rules on top of the data. But this is the sweet spot for self-service data: today, information workers tend to spend more time cleansing and shaping data than actually analysing it."

"I think it also depends on industries, some are highly regulated and there is a lot of control that has to be applied to data, this is somewhere that we see IT being a little bit concerned.

"In all cases it’s not a matter of losing power, because IT knows they have a backlog with data, IT knows the data is doubling every year or 18 months but the IT team is not doubling to be able to manage it. In addition, doing nothing is not an option. In this digital era, people don’t wait anymore for IT to get the data, they can find alternative channels, which may lead to more chaotic approach where sensitive data is propagated everywhere without any control."

 

CBR: What strategy tips do you have for businesses to follow?

Franco: "From control to governance, the key element is to establish the policies, the practices, and to define the roles that are to be concerned.

"It’s more than delivering data as a self-service, it is also about shifting the accountability for data. Think about how financial assets are managed as in enterprises. Lines of business are fully accountable of their top line and bottom line, but under the control of the office of the CFO. Now that data has become an asset, there’s a need for establishing similar rules and policies."

 

CBR: What challenges does that pose to vendors when providing tools to do this?

Franco: "Generally it is in finding the right level of responsibility so sometimes the IT would own that, sometimes it’s the line of business. Depending on the case we can have different audiences and in some cases it can be a conflicting audience for ourselves.

Another challenge is that it’s not just a matter of tools. You need them, but a sound organization fuelled with best practices are needed as well. Not only are we expected to deliver the platform, but to act as a trusted advisor than can provide guidance for change.

 

CBR: How mature are businesses when it comes to data governance?

Franco: "Most businesses consider themselves at the very beginning of the story. In some cases, the responsibility for data is on IT and in others it can shift to specific lines of business, we also see trends for new roles like the Chief Data Officer.

"The difficult thing is accountability. Take customer data for example: surveys say that 25% contact data in customer databases are inaccurate, and we all know that it leads to inefficiency in marketing campaigns, sales operations, or customer satisfaction.

But who would take accountability to solve this issue? The CIO? the CMO? The Sales Director? The CDO? "

"This not an easy move, and there is no silver bullet like a one size fits all roadmap for Data Governance that everyone should follow. However, organizations have now understood that they need to tackle this issue to become data driven."

 

CBR: Why aren’t businesses at the stage where they know what to do?

Franco: "We are still at the early stage of understanding the impact that it has on business. So you look at topics like data quality and there are very few companies that are able to say if my data is wrong then that should translate to 10% less in sales conversions or 10% of my orders going to the wrong place.

"But this is changing now that executives are now scrutinizing more and more their business with data lenses."

 

CBR: What’s the impact of getting data preparation wrong?

Franco: "Currently the thing that resonates the most is the efficiency gap, which means that there are more and more people spending a lot of time working with data.

"Companies have implemented lots of processes to streamline their operations so that they don’t spend a lot of time creating a new purchase order for example… but, now they spend a lot of time doing a report for their manager or when trying to take data from one application to another.

"This efficiency gap has risen to a point where our customer tell us their some of their employees are spending 80% of their time preparing the data before they can analyse it. Survey found that for some employees like data analysts, the related cost is close to £20,000 a year"

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