Over the last couple of years, we are seeing a paradigm shift in the approach towards the usage of data. The technological possibilities are pushing through the modern integration management capabilities, providing highly digitalized customer engagements, products, services, and business processes.
In this blog, I will explain how we see the challenges and potential solutions at INVIXO.
The Digital Foundation – The Modern Reference Architecture
The integration department and the BI/Data department are now working closely together. The different departments may continue to operate as units but with a collaborative approach. At some point, we may see a change in how an information-driven organization is structured. This is the result of the shift in paradigm.
By designing your architecture correctly across the IT department and the BI department, it will enable you to achieve better results, better performance and you will be able to serve your customers and the entire business in a new way that enables them to perform better and take information-driven decisions.
As illustrated below, the optimal reference architecture is by connecting different areas within the organization making it possible to set data free under the right governance.
Figure 1 – The Digital Foundation Reference Architecture
As an example, the above architecture can enable business users to get data from the BI solution and use it for operational purposes. By doing so, you will be able to serve your customer better and faster. Imagine a situation where the customer would like to see their most purchased products on their profile on your website. That information will be readily available in your BI solution, but traditionally not available as part of your operational setup. By designing your architecture with the opportunity to create a close collaboration between the different areas, it will be possible to deliver any information to your customer.
The new paradigm is driven by a need for change in the architecture in your organization to become more agile and information-driven. Modern technologies make it possible to couple data closer in the entire ecosystem and enable data literacy.
Departments across the organization will then be capitalizing on collective intelligence and combined skill sets. This way of working closer together will help create new business opportunities that were not available before.
Historically, the integration department and the BI department are two separated business units with little to no cooperation. This means that you are not leveraging the opportunities that can help you combine operational data (that is the responsibility of the integration team) and the analytical data (that resides in BI).
As organizations look for better and effective ways to streamline their approach towards the usage of data, many challenges have given birth to this shift in paradigm. One of the current challenges organizations face is the difficulty in obtaining and utilizing the right information and data when working on analytical or operational solutions. It can be quite frustrating and laborious to go over massive amounts of data that do not make sense in the given context.
When looking for specific questions for your customers, you do not want to go back to them with no answers. One challenge organizations face is coming across missing data in the operational setup when looking for analytical data from the Business Intelligence (BI) department. Customers need answers to their questions fast and lack of information can seriously prevent you from serving your customers to the best of your abilities.
Hopping around different departments when looking for information is counterproductive. If you are going around in circles looking for pieces of data in silos and in separate business departments, it can result in loss of potential business value and performance issues. Your organization cannot fully capitalize on competencies if you are working in separate functions across different departments. This is also one of the common challenges for business departments!
Your Digital Foundation Journey
Creating the right Digital Foundation is crucial to enable a digital transformation. When taking on the digital foundation journey, many businesses may not pay attention to how integration plans can evolve beyond their initial integration projects. A proper data strategy is crucial to your ability to grow into a data-driven organization or even further, into an information-driven organization. When used intelligently, the digital foundation can be turned into a valuable business asset, allowing you to become information-driven.
Traditionally, the data integration tools were delivered through a set of markets. These markets included vendors that offered software products in a specific style to enable the implementation of data for various scenarios. Gartner’s data integration glossary states, “… the historical fragmentation in the markets is the equally fragmented and complex way in which data integration is accomplished in large enterprises — different teams using different tools, with little consistency, lots of overlap and redundancy, and no common management or leverage of metadata.” Such an approach prevents organizations from utilizing the full range of their data integration requirements.
Today, however, things are changing fast. “Organizations realize they need to think about data integration holistically and have a common set of data integration capabilities they can use across the enterprise,” says Gartner.
The ability to manage data as an asset across the enterprise requires dependency on elements such as building a strong technical foundation, proper mechanisms to govern data and holding employees accountable for managing data. This includes building a mindset and culture where employees think of the data, not as their own, but as the company’s.
How to leverage the opportunities in the new paradigm?
In this section, I will explain the different solutions to some of the challenges the paradigm shift creates, including opportunities to be leveraged.
Combine operational and analytical data sets
The technologies today provide the foundation for effective BI and effective data integration. By combining both and keeping your master data in mind, you can work with both operational and analytical data sets at the same time. For this to work, we need to get the BI and Integration department collaborating much closer to leverage the possibilities that come from having both operational and analytical data available for all solutions.
The traditional discipline of building a BI solution with a foundation in a comprehensive data warehouse for your enterprise is still one of the most important pillars in creating one version of the truth. The Data Warehouse (when modeled according to dimensional principles) enables businesses to aggregate raw data and analyze it in depth to produce business insights. This should still be a core element of your data and integration strategy.
Today’s businesses understand that data is the most significant strategic asset for their business. A data-driven business’ decision-making process involves a data management and integration strategy that merges data from different silos and creates structured metadata in real-time to provide operational and analytical information-driven solutions.
Set data free (…under the right governance)
Today, companies deal with various data governance challenges such as higher and complex demands for decision making, the need for lower cost of data infrastructure and maintenance, and compliance with governance regulations. Hence, balancing data governance is essential for every enterprise. By designing the right architecture, you can set data free under the right governance so you can expect faster and effective data delivery, improved decision making, and increased ROI.
Better serve the business
The digital foundation reference architecture shown in figure 1 embraces both the integration (operational) and the BI (analytical) parts of the data. Whether you are working on internal or external integration, your teams and stakeholders will be able to use the information to collaborate and deploy information constructively if the architecture is designed properly.
When all the data is available to all solutions, you are in a better position to utilize that data effectively. The organized repositories will help achieve better decision-making, better intelligence on your operations, and improved processes. This is done by using your integration platform to connect the operational and analytical sources where needed. At the same time, you can feed the operational data instantaneously to your analytical solution, thus providing more value for both operation and BI.
How to get started?
The below illustration shows the process of how we, at INVIXO, approach the structuring of the digital foundation, enabling you to become information-driven.
It is essential to initiate the process with a series of workshops to identify and define your, and your business, needs, and preferences regarding the data landscape in your organization. Therefore, we initiate with a kick-off to discuss and agree on participants and how the series of workshops should be structured.
We find it essential for success to align the needs of the technical organization and the business organization to get relevant stakeholders onboard to take ownership of their respective areas of responsibility. This way we ensure that the final solution is anchored and adopted much easier.
Ensuing the kick-off, the next step is to assess your maturity of the organization in relation to data, infrastructure, and capabilities, to identify your existing challenges and opportunities before diving into your digital foundation journey.
The remaining activities from the illustration are as well relevant to succeed in creating an actionable roadmap for your digital foundation. The order is however determined in collaboration with you to match your organization.
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I hope you found the information and learnings useful. Should you wish to exchange opinions or get a pair of fresh eyes on your own strategy or roadmap I would be happy to get in touch. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/luttge/
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Martin Lindberg Lüttge
Director, Business Data Solution