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Commentary

Think Big: Focus on the Data

To get ahead of the game, small and mid-sized companies should start thinking like a big business early, and build a solid foundation around what may be their single most valuable asset -- data
Play the Field
It is no longer essential or ideal to standardize on any one vendor for your critical IT systems and software. In most situations the business will already have some legacy or outdated technology which leads to a heterogeneous environment. Additionally, acquisitions and industry consolidation have led to more diversity for the IT department to manage.

Today's data management and data warehouse "projects" are more complex than ever and many organizations deploy a number of technologies to co-exist in order to best meet their overall requirements. Software solutions such as ETL, EAI, EII and data quality all have a place when it comes to managing critical information. However, selecting the best approach and right technology can be the most challenging part.

The IT organization must deal with legacy environments that don't easily integrate and usually reach a point where they need to migrate off the older systems in order to modernize the entire infrastructure. Heterogeneity is like a double edged sword – it is almost a fact of life in IT environments and while this is an asset and helps avoid becoming locked-in with any one vendor, the challenge is that you have to make all these systems collaborate and integrate.

This does not suggest that sound architectural and vendor management practices are on the decline. As a matter of fact, IT governances are far more sophisticated today then ever before, yet innovative integration and web services technologies have cleared the logjams long held hostage to proprietary or restrictive platforms.

Adopt the "Swiss Army-Knife" Approach
Seek out multiple-use solutions when it comes to managing your data. Offering greater potential than a single-use tool, look for software that can meet multiple requirements, even requirements you may not yet have—from data migrations, data integration and offloading reporting. Consider software that will scale as the business (and inevitably the volume of data) grows.

By following the "Swiss Army knife" mentality, it is possible to use one data management approach that will meet a variety of data needs. For example, streaming the data out to different areas of the business will open up new possibilities. Don't assume because your customer service or sales reps do not ask for the data in real-time, that fresher data won't benefit users in the future or even right now. Imagine the operating efficiency that could be created if your sales, service, operations, and finance departments shared the same consistent and accurate source of data.

For now, focus on making the most up-to-date information available, but be ready to accommodate more and more requests for real-time data as the needs of users change over time. Generally once the business and operational users get a taste for accessing the most current data for reporting and analytics, the demand has a ripple effect throughout the organization. The reliability of the data then takes on a more critical role, not only for regulated industries such as banking or healthcare, but also any business that comes to rely on the data for intelligence, decision-making and analysis, particularly when there are multiple sources or uses of the data.

Mid-Size but Mighty
Small but visionary, mid-sized but mighty. The forward-thinking organizations that adopt scalable, flexible, multi-use technologies will become the successful big businesses of tomorrow. It is just a small shift in thinking, and in practice, but results can pay off in a big way. Building a real-time architecture today and approaching your data management initiatives like a big business will make the transition to mighty all that much easier.

Tom Lesica is the former group VP of business operations and technology for Avaya. Before joining Avaya, Tom was chief operating officer and CIO of NewRoads. During Tom's tenure he also served as CIO for the Pepsi-Cola Co. as well as senior VP and CIO for J.Crew. Since 1981 when he joined IBM, Tom has held a diverse set of executive and leadership roles in the public and private sectors, across several industry verticals. He serves on the GoldenGate Advisory Board, in addition to several other boards and consulting engagements.

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