New thinking needed to tackle ‘data overload’


by: Freya Purnell

Enterprises
need to radically change the way they approach data management as
volumes grow exponentially, according to Joshua Greenbaum, principal
analyst at the US-based Enterprise Applications Consulting.

In
Sydney last week for the Mastering BI with SAP conference, Greenbaum
spoke about the growing challenges associated with understanding and
using the ever-increasing amount of data within organisations.

“It
was very simple once upon a time when everything was relational data
coming out of the R3 system and the data itself was well understood.
Now we have this mass influx of data coming from all points… We see
data as absolutely fundamental to companies, so there’s a complexity in
the quality and quantity of data and a complexity in the analysis which
really requires the beginning of a culture of information,” Greenbaum
said.

He argues that to maximise and leverage the use of data
from disparate sources, companies need to tap into different skill sets
and perhaps even re-examine their business structures. “One of the more
radical proposals to address this is the creation of a Chief Data
Officer, whose job is really to mirror the functions of the CFO on the
data side,” Greenbaum said.

He believes managers also need to be skilled in the manipulation of data.

“We
don’t have as a western cultural imperative the need to learn
statistics to become well-versed in the value of data,” he said. “So
your number one priority should be to hire smart people who know how to
use data.”

And for this, companies may need to think outside the box.

“As
the crisis unfolded, there were thousands of hedge fund managers out of
work and those guys really understand data. In a blog post I joked that
they should come and use data inside companies the way they used data
inside markets. Because that’s the kind of understanding of information
that is needed.”

Failure to adapt to this new environment could have dire consequences for enterprises, Greenbaum said.

“If
you have more complex processes which are data-driven, simple mistakes
can be costly. If an employee doesn’t understand the value of a
particular data input, they might literally make a mistake that costs
millions of dollars.

“Then there’s just the basic competitive
aspect – you need to be on top of this increasingly complex quantity of
data because it’s really driving business success. Failure to do that
means you’re no longer competitive.”

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