Nilesh Chandra, healthcare expert at PA Consulting, discusses data visibility and explains how CIOs and data officers can gain a better understanding of their data.
The digital universe is set to reach 44 zettabytes in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum. A single organization owns only a tiny sliver of that total amount, but most organizations still struggle to understand the volume of data they have, what exactly they have and where it's all stored. It all raises questions about how much potential value this data creates versus the amount of risk it generates.
Given the consequences of poor data visibility, CISOs, CIOs, data officers and other enterprise executives need a better understanding of their data. This requires developing an effective management strategy to ensure they know what data they have, how it should be handled and how it can be used to benefit competitive business objectives.
The volume of data being created is certainly a contributing factor, data experts said in recent interviews. But they also pointed to other factors leading to organizations' overall lack of visibility into their data.
It often starts with how organizations handle data: Many still have data stored in silos, with unstructured and structured data on premises, in the cloud and even in systems owned and controlled by providers and partners.
Nilesh says: "Data lends itself very well to disorganization, and that's the fundamental challenge.”
He adds that many organizations still don't have a single position with full accountability for data stewardship, further complicating the situation.
Data visibility defined
Data experts said enterprise leaders need to identify where they hold what data to achieve true data visibility critical to advance data analytics programs, as well as comply with data privacy regulations.
Poor data visibility can make safeguarding data and complying with privacy laws infinitely more difficult, experts said. In fact, poor data visibility could lead to an organization unwittingly exposing data or making it noncompliant with regulations, Nilesh said.
Nilesh continues: "Data is a source of competitive advantage, and many organizations don't get the value they could out of it.”
He adds that "the value of a record can also be negative," such as if an organization holds onto sensitive data that serves no business purpose and could be deleted.
Steps to improve visibility
Executives who want to gain more insight into their data should create a single point of accountability for the task, experts said, adding that they then need to assess and inventory their data; develop processes to delete redundant or obsolete data; and secure data based on risk.
Nilesh acknowledged that data management is not an easy task. "Most organizations still struggle with data governance."
Experts explained that a good data governance program needs to consider how the people, process, technology and culture should work together to create a system that enables the enterprise to see and understand what data it has where and what rules should then apply to the various data points.
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