Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are data silos holding your company back?

In a recent blog post I commented on the issues with collecting data across the organisation. But one it is collected, it's the storage that's the next problem.

You see, data in businesses is still pretty much silo based, with information retained within specific people, units and departments. Decision making is consequently restricted to this data and is therefore restricted in its scope, outlook and ultimately its potential. And typically where there is a lack of data, this leads to assumption and inherent inaccuracies. In short, silo-based thinking leads to silo-based data capture, which leads to silo-based-decision making.

This isn't a new phenomenon and there are articles that exist online since the beginning of the web that talk about this. But with the increase in the amount of data being captured about people, their activities, their multi-device habits and transactions they perform all the time ... the world is collecting and storing more information than ever before (often with little consideration of how it will be used subsequent) and this creates a growing problem. For example, I remember just a few years ago working on the implementation of a large eCommerce site, where a key requirement was to capture every possible piece of  web analytics data (including the complete user journey for every visitor) in another database not accessible by the rest of the business . When I asked why this was, the only rationale given at the time was "I don't know, but we might want to look at it later".

However this issue is something that 'big data' practitioners are now starting to get their teeth into. Products like Autonomy are now worth billions of dollars (although perhaps only to HP at the beginning of 2012 now) because they can make sense of huge amounts of structured and unstructured data to provide business insight.
So maybe there was a reason for storing all that individual website visitor data back then...
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