Doctors in the United States were put on red alert in 2015 when the Center for Disease Control announced that adult obesity rates had ballooned up to 68.6% in only three years. This human growth rate, clearly on a fast trajectory in the wrong direction, unfortunately aligns quite closely with what is happening to enterprise data.

Data in the digital universe is doubling every two years, and is on track to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. Within that vast amount of data, enterprises are responsible for 85% of it. The Internet, mobile, and social media are recent contributors to the huge growth, but traditional IT and EIM practices have done their part assisting the data bloat.

Just like server sprawl in data centers, organizations have seen data platforms mushroom into the tens and hundreds. The increase in numbers hasn’t led to better data management. Instead, the data is not only isolated for single-use purposes, it also suffers from duplication, errors, and redundancy.

At a North American pharmaceutical giant, company data was spread across 900 databases, but there was no “strength in numbers.” The lack of data governance prevented the company from making real-time business decisions and adapting quickly to a dynamic, fast-paced environment. In a digital economy, data is the fuel, and digital businesses must make quick adjustments in real time or be left behind.

Data-centric companies recognize the three main tenants of a digital business:

• Businesses must run live, like a 24-hour news cycle, and in real-time

• Data is at the heart of all business decisions and processes

• Decision makers throughout the company need self-service access to data

Examples of timely, successful digital transformations are becoming much easier to find in the business world. At the heart of these forward-leaning companies is a strong data governance strategy built on trusted, consolidated, and relevant enterprise data that provides intrinsic value and competitive advantages.

The 24/7, real-time business cycle

Companies that mix operational data with business data are innovating in real time, and they must. Business is live and current, rarely static and constant. When organizations follow a strict data governance and information excellence plan, they can respond as quickly as the market changes occur. Keurig, leader of the one-cup coffee craze, found itself in the middle of the caffeine boom, experiencing consistent growth during the last decade.

“We were growing at such a dramatic rate, we needed to build a solid foundation and develop business process discipline to allow for continued growth as well as global expansion,” says Eileen Hanafin, Director of Master Data Management Business Process for Keurig Green Mountain. “Centralizing the management of our master data was part of that.”

Keurig was pursuing growth opportunities and its fractured view of data slowed operations. By establishing a master data management organization, Keurig teams had visibility into all master data, processes, document rules and standards.

Reporting is much more consistent and verifiable, which allows Keurig to respond quickly to accommodate new patterns and demands in its retail and consumer channels. Customer whims and new popular fads constantly impact these two channels, and Keurig can adapt to the ups and downs as they happen.

Data-driven business decisions Consolidating data to make better decisions is a worthy enterprise goal, but data warehousing projects can breakdown when they don’t start with good, clean, trustworthy data. In the digital economy where data is the core of all business decisions, companies with unreliable data risk repeating the same errors as before—just faster. Data must be a trusted asset.

When Maxim Integrated opened in 1983, the maker of integrated circuits had no idea it would ride the same swirling wave as the Silicon Valley, the heart of the tech boom. Acquisitions and mergers had created a company filled with disparate applications, master definitions, and process models, but the company had a plan to create a “One Maxim.”

“Data is the most important thing we deal with—it impacts every system and process at Maxim Integrated,” says Steve Bloomfield, executive director of IT at Maxim Integrated.

With a well-planned information excellence strategy, future acquisitions would have less of an impact on the business and current business processes in product definition management, warehouse management, production planning, global trade management and shipping and logistics would be much more streamlined. Since creating a single source of data, the company has delivered on its “One Maxim” goal, and it is integrating new acquisitions into the Maxim family 30% to 50% faster. The data has proven its value during acquisitions and in streamlining day-to-day business activities.

Self-service business analytics increases revenue

Requesting a report for past or current financials, or a sales forecast, should not require three to five business days. That’s much too long for companies that need to respond as customer and market fluctuations occur. When the enterprise data is accurate and analytics are self-service, business analysts, sales, and executives can have instant feedback to support short- and long-term planning.

Adding in sentiment analysis of social media lets organizations take the pulse of marketing efforts whenever they want. Self-service analytics are especially helpful for identifying where and how profit loss is occurring.

For the telecom industry, smart phones and Internet browsers have taken a bite out of revenues. Industry leader Vodafone responded to the decline by taking a closer look at the revenue leakage occurring from misuse of tariffs and customer discounts and an inability to understand which customers were most profitable.

Vodafone wasn’t lacking in data; it was awash in data. The data was so vast that Vodafone practiced data sampling rather than using full data sets and its iteration cycles were quite long. The lack of data governance created a perfect storm where leakage could not be identified, addressed, or prevented. With such an unwieldy process, decision makers throughout the company were missing opportunities that could prevent leakage and improve profitability.

Vodafone consolidated its data and transformed the business environment to give all decision makers access to its valuable data and analytics. Business analysts, executives, finance managers and other decision makers depend on self-service analytics that help them make timely decisions.

Business users can interrogate and interact with their data in real time and identify in seconds target revenue leakage areas that they should investigate. The finance director has a dashboard with summary information, and other groups such as revenue assurance and commercials teams have dashboards for quick access to current business data for analysis and insight.

The risk of being irrelevant

Creating a single source of truth through data governance has never been so important—and achieving it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The health of the enterprise depends on it. Data is the currency and the cornerstone of enterprise digital transformation, and companies need a sound strategy to take control of their data and get it fit and in shape. Healthy data starts with building enterprise-wide Information excellence foundation that has trustworthy, relevant data with a global, centralized view.

Without it, enterprise data will continue to spiral out of control and leave companies too weak to compete in the digital economy.

(About the author: Michael Eacrett is vice president of Big Data and Information Management at SAP. He has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise information and data management, data warehousing and enterprise and open source platforms.)

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