5. Corporate Data Strategy: building a future-ready IT infrastructure
The future of business is built around data. Companies everywhere are seeking to reshape their business models to unlock the enormous potential of this multi-faceted asset. Yet what often leads to a downfall of their efforts is a failure to acknowledge that the foundation for any such endeavour should be the underlying IT architecture, which aligns with the commercial strategy. It is essential to bring technology experts and decision-makers together to envision and carry out a robust data strategy.
Whereas incremental change built on top of legacy technologies can seem like the best choice, such an approach can potentially create more problems in the long run. Pilling up new solutions on top of the existing infrastructure often results in an enormously increased complexity. Since the key characteristics of data and its market are velocity and dynamism, the underlying infrastructure itself should be ready for continuous change. Therefore, businesses that aim to gain a competitive advantage rather than to merely survive, need to thoroughly transform their intrinsic technology, so that it can quickly incorporate new developments and remove redundant ones increasing their readiness for the future.
In-depth reshaping equals an enormous effort and huge resource consumption, which is why it is crucial for businesses to enact these changes with a clear intention and a strategy in place. Whereas the number of possibilities may seem overwhelming, there are several developments that are sure to bring companies closer to their data goals through a flexible and resilient IT architecture.
Traditional data solutions focus on processing data in batches. Yet the future lies in dynamic data — a stream of logs that records events as they happen, which is continuously generated, usually in high volumes and at high velocity. This type of data requires an infrastructure of software components, which can consume and process immense amounts of streaming data from multiple sources immediately and as it is generated.
It is evident that our underlying physical, administrative, and financial systems are moving towards hyper-connectivity. The number of various connected devices is growing at an enormous rate. Given that by 2025 there will be more than 38Bn of connected devices producing an unprecedented volume of real-time data, it is crucial to build the underlying IT architecture capable of processing real-time data streams with scalability, availability, and reliability in mind. For instance, in a Smart City scenario, there will be billions of different devices exchanging data between themselves and a range of applications, which will be able to process that data in near real-time and send the resulting insights to other data users.
Companies that aim to build their business around data streams should integrate a broker-based publish/subscribe mechanism as the basis of their IT architecture. It, essentially, allows data publishers to publish messages to specific topics and data users to subscribe to those topics, so that they can obtain a flow of data as it is generated. The broker can process millions of messages every second making it a perfect solution when dealing with real-time data.
Modularity and decoupling
To reduce complexity and ensure that various parts of the underlying technological structure can be removed and included with ease, it is crucial to apply a design thinking approach of modularity from the very outset. In this approach, the infrastructure is built from modular blocks where each block is responsible for a specific task and is, therefore, self-contained. When a single block undergoes a change, the rest do not need to be adjusted as they are completely autonomous and unaware of each other.
High decoupling equals rapid adoption of new developments in the technology sector, quicker to fix problems in the existing IT architecture and independent evolvement of different modules. It allows for an architecture that employs the best cross-platform services, each serving a specific business goal.
Decentralized data access control
Given that real-time data streams can be used by a potentially infinite number of different actors for a variety of purposes, it is crucial to create a sharing infrastructure that connects and facilitates the exchange between data producers and data users. Not only does this render access to data easier within the organisation itself, but it enables the creation of data marketplaces, which connect stakeholders from partner organisations and other interested parties. Data marketplaces can open vast possibilities for data monetisation for all the subjects involved.
While this enormous exchange of data can help fuel the company’s launch to unprecedented success, it comes with a cost — current data protection laws mandate for granular data access control exercised by legal data owners, and there are commercial and reputational risks attached to noncompliance.
Therefore, since administrative and legal constraints of such endeavour are immense, it is paramount to implement solutions that minimise the effort on a technical level. Being able to seamlessly link different actors in a decentralised and GDPR-compliant way can turn an obstacle into an enormous opportunity. Transforming oneself into a GDPR-compliant, neutral data sharing service, independent of both data owners and data users, which mediates this exchange, can help businesses establish themselves as key players in the emerging data-driven ecosystems.
These technological developments have an enormous capacity to help facilitate a business’s transformation to a data-first company. Forward-thinking institutions should focus their attention on aligning their IT architecture and business strategy focused on real-time data. Whereas this endeavour requires careful planning and both financial and time resources, it can aid companies in being future-ready and create enormous and lasting value in the long run.