Dealing with data sprawl will bring big benefits for your business
A good organization runs on good data. It’s both your most valuable resource and your ticket to sound decision-making, but keeping your data together in a coherent, manageable, searchable format is a more significant challenge than many realize.
What is ‘Data Sprawl’?
The term ‘data sprawl’ has appeared in recent years to represent the difficulties faced by modern, digitizing organizations who are struggling to keep track of the information that they hold and own. Gone are the days that client records and contact details are stored in a filing cabinet at Head Office, and everyone knows where to go to find that ‘master’ record.
Nowadays, one single organization could be operating dozens of different systems simultaneously, from spreadsheets to databases, enterprise software systems to (still!) paper. How should you pull all this information together? How can you ensure that employees across the organization have access to the data they need when they need it?
The case for good data management is becoming ever more compelling given the amount of information we generate each day. In 2018, Forbes.com reported that more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created every day, and that number was expected to double every two years. This pattern is replicated in businesses, albeit on a smaller scale; we generate more financial data, client data, and reporting data than ever before.
How can you manage data sprawl?
The case for good data management is clear. The question is, how can we achieve it?
Consider the case for cloud storage
To make the most of your data, it must be searchable. This means ensuring that it’s a) digitized and b) held in a format that can be interrogated by staff across the organization. With remote working becoming ever more the norm in 2021, it’s no longer good enough to hold records physically in one location.
Moving all of your disparate data systems into the cloud is a good step. Employees can always have real-time, up-to-date access to the latest information from anywhere in the world. There are well-documented advantages of using cloud hosting for project management, but all areas of your business can benefit from this online-enabled approach.
Implement data integration
Getting your data into the cloud is a big step forward, but ideally, you also want your systems to talk to each other. This means implementing a data integration solution to make data flow between systems and applications, opening up the possibility for a reporting solution that draws on information from multiple locations.
At DRMcNatty, we are used to dealing with data strewn across various cloud environments, on desktops, or in internal systems. Visibility across these areas is limited, limiting clients in their ability to access data and ultimately inhibiting the power of data to provide decision support for stakeholders.
Data integration works to reduce data sprawl because the end product to the user doesn’t reflect what’s going on behind the scenes. Even if your information is held in 10 different systems, a well-functioning integration solution means that this shouldn’t matter to the person running a report. The product they receive will include all of the information they need, drawn seamlessly from the various ‘home’ locations. Following the four steps to data integration success brings data together in a single, unified format.
Ensure that your data security is up to date
This tip is less about changing the way you organize your data, and more about making sure that the data you hold is kept secure and legal.
The last thing any organization wants is a data breach. Issues of this kind can lead to huge fines and untold damage to reputation, and are an extremely negative experience for you and any clients that may be affected. To avoid risking a data breach, focus on the following:
- Regular training on data security for staff at all levels across the organization, refreshed each time there is a major update to relevant legislation
- Make sure your data management policies are both up to date and actively used; it’s no good having a watertight policy if no one knows about it
- Work with your cloud hosting and IT suppliers to ensure that all necessary IT security steps are being taken to protect your data
Data sprawl is a problem worth solving
Taking steps to manage your data sprawl significantly reduces your levels of risk in a number of areas. Good data management reduces the risk of ‘unsighted’ and harmful decisions being taken without all the pertinent information being available, and also gives staff access to the data they need to do their jobs. It helps create an information repository which harvests all information together, leading to better quality decisions.
We have significant experience helping organizations understand, reformat, integrate, and report on their data. If you’re struggling with data sprawl and would appreciate industry-expert advice on the best next steps for your business, get in touch with our knowledgeable team, who can work with you to find the best solution.