How the cloud can help overcome the data fragmentation challenge

21 September 2021 4 min. read
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The value of data to Australian businesses continues to increase, however many are facing significant challenges when it comes to its effective use. Peter O’Connor, Vice President Asia Pacific at Snowflake, outlines how the cloud can help overcome the well-known challenge of data fragmentation. 

The proliferation of so-called ‘data silos’ and barriers to efficient sharing means much of the benefit data can deliver is yet to be realised. Steps need to be taken to overcome this situation or market position and competitive advantage could be lost.

The situation was highlighted by a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. It found Australian business leaders are increasingly recognising the strategic opportunities that data-driven insights can offer their organisations. 

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The study, based on responses from more than 900 global executives, found 34% see the biggest advantage of having better data insights as being able to expand their customer base. Other top responses include attracting top talent (30%), gaining market share (28%) and reducing time to market (22%). 

Interestingly, Australian companies are also increasingly selling and providing data to third parties. In the six months prior to the survey, almost half (44%) of Australian respondents reported selling data to a supplier or vendor while 42% did so with a government body. 

Around a third (36%) had sold data to a non-profit or non-governmental organisation while 32% had provided data to a third-party data vendor. Most respondents (88%) also revealed they have provided data without payment. 

Overcoming challenges

While the study identified an increasing appetite for data within Australian organisations, many report they are still facing some key challenges when it comes to increasing their sharing and usage of that data. Challenges highlighted include a lack of technical capacity, a lack of investment in systems and infrastructure, and the lack of a clear mandate from leadership.

Using data for strategic purposes

The study found 34% of Australian respondents believe too much time is required to make better use of data. Of those surveyed, 28% said there were barriers preventing them from sharing data with other organisations. 

Many of the challenges stem from the fact that data is often fragmented within organisations. When data is stored in multiple, disjointed locations, it makes it very difficult to obtain a holistic view and extract the maximum amount of value from it.

The rise of the data cloud

To beat this challenge, increasing numbers of organisations are turning to cloud-based data storage and management resources. Just as infrastructure clouds, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, have become highly scaled and consolidated, a similar trend is now happening in data. 

The change is being driven by the rising importance of data analytics as a support for business activity. To be effective, analytics tools need to be able to access data regardless of its location and not simply rely on a single siloed source.

Having this capability can allow an organisation to gain insights in ways that previously would have been very difficult if not impossible to achieve. Data from multiple applications can be combined to provide a clear picture of exactly what is happening and predict what may lie ahead.

Meanwhile, data from partners and third-party sources can also be combined with internal data to create a rich data set on which analytics tools can be put to work. Taking this approach can allow a business to gain insights into anything from changes in market direction to the impact of supply chain constraints on operations.

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During the next 12 months, data clouds will become an increasingly important resource for Australian organisations. They will help to overcome the challenges posed by data silos and allow business leaders to have a much clearer picture of their operations.

Just as the cloud has revolutionised the way in which IT infrastructure and applications are delivered, the same path is now being followed when it comes to data. The result will be a resource with the potential to reshape the way businesses operate and grow.