A takeaway from an Interop ITX panel discussion: Data isn't a commodity to work with, but is a vehicle for unifying IT and the business at large.

Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch; Writer/Speaker

May 16, 2018

6 Min Read
Image: iStock

Coming back from Interop ITX is always a bittersweet occasion. On one hand, it’s a little sad to leave friends and brilliant colleagues after such a wonderful event. On the other hand, I definitely leave with a wealth of knowledge and even a few new contacts.

This year at Interop, I had the chance to both present and attend a few really interesting sessions. It felt like a major theme revolved around data, managing data, and how to leverage information to create truly powerful competitive advantages in today’s world. That said, I had the chance to sit in on a panel discussion titled "Harmonizing Business and IT: Data as the Driver". Lead by Romi Mahajan (Director, Blueprint), the panel also included Donald Farmer (CEO, Treehive Strategy), Danielle Funston (VP, Blueprint), and Erick Watson (Chief Product Officer, Quantarium).

The discussion was absolutely fascinating.

Before we dive in, let’s talk about data for a second. Think about what you’ve done so far today. Did you check your email? Maybe you went for walk and logged it in your Apple Watch. Or, maybe you asked Alexa to play your favorite station. This day alone could see you generate gigabytes of data through the interaction with digital tools in your life. Now, at a business scale, data creation is even greater. A recent report from Cisco points out that, driven by the Internet of Things, the total amount of data created (and not necessarily stored) by devices will reach 847 zetabytes per year by 2021, up from 218 zetabytes in 2016.

However, working with all of this data isn’t always easy. For example, a Gartner report indicates that even with some advanced analytics tools, you may be limited due to a lack of skills. In fact, through 2020, a lack of data professionals may prevent 75% of organizations from achieving the full potential of connected devices and IoT. This is why by 2020 80% of organizations will initiate competency development to improve data literacy.

As you read this, it’s important to understand why so many organizations are playing catch up when it comes to working with data. Furthermore, it’s critical to understand how data can act as a direct enabler between business and IT. That said, let’s look at some key takeaways from the Interop session, and how you can better leverage data to impact your own organization.

Data is seen as the new oil or goldmine. But it’s oftentimes really poorly managed. The big question is why is this data – that’s clearly valuable – so poorly managed? In looking at the overall market and the massive influx of new data points, companies simply don’t know how to leverage and utilize all of this incoming data.

Even though organizations know that collecting data is critical. They’re challenged with finding use cases. However, don’t let this dissuade you from working with good data management solutions and partners in the industry. There are so many use cases that can benefit the business and the customer. For the business specifically a good data management solution can do a lot for efficiency and process. In fact, a recent Forrester study indicated that 66% of enterprises will deploy data insight centers of excellence as a remedy for organizational misalignments.

Growth in data must be considered. Not just that, data must be considered an asset. From there, it needs to be managed as an asset. That is, invest, innovate, and actually quantify the data. There will be no slowdown in the amount of data created and the growth in the value of that information. Start managing it as a valuable asset.

Data has to go through a process before it becomes usable. This means that business, infrastructure, and systems have to become data-centric to serve the data and visualize it. Tools that revolve around data visualization have come a long way. In fact, we can deliver information based on context to the right user with the right type of interface. This allows the business to make better decisions impacting both the organization and the overall market. Remember, we throw away a lot of information; but we need to learn how to keep the most important parts. This is why working with good data management tools is important.

Understand the value of data. Educate business leaders about the importance of data so they can make better decisions. Here’s the cool part – you’re not only leveraging data to make real-time decisions, you’re also using it for predicative analytics. When you process information properly, you not only increase the value of data, you improve the way it’s used within your organization. That said, you might have to pick your battles within your own company. Find maturity levels within your organization where advanced data tools can be used. The goal is organizational data maturity and working with the right use-cases.

Business users don’t always understand the constraints around data and security. You have to think about GDPR, regulations, compliance, and more. Data isn’t only valuable to you; the bad guys want in as well. There must be process and compliance around data. New regulations like GDPR will introduce new roles and even new responsibilities. It’s important to re-think how security integrates with things like data analytics; where it’s important to create a data-centric mentality. That said, it does take some training and new skill sets. Remember what we said earlier, treat data like a valuable corporate asset, and secure and protect that asset.

Cloud can be a data ally. I took away an interesting point from the panel: There is far too much data, and it’s far too important for us to keep it on premise. Doing data security, especially for mid-market and SMB, is a challenge. A big piece of advice to help align business and IT is to leverage. Even in large organizations, managing data can create a lot of complexity and could be more of a burden. Cloud solutions can be powerful and absolutely secure. In fact, you can work with smart data warehouses that are AI-driven and capable of helping you with powerful predictive solutions. In working with your own organization, managing vast amounts of data on premise may create an unnecessary burden. Look to the cloud for help.

Final Thoughts

There was a really interesting point made by the panel: Working with data is a shared problem, but is also a shared opportunity for business and IT. To unify business and IT, practice some empathy and make sure you understand the goals of the business. Most of all, don’t create silos. It’s important to understand that across almost every business size and vertical we’re becoming digital entities. Because of this we need to remove the distinction between IT and business. Maybe at one point there was a difference, today IT is a business function.

Finally, it’s not just about the data. Too often, we get bogged down by data points and forget the human element of both IT and the modern business. Get out of the "data cave" and interact with people. Remember, data is only a piece of the puzzle. When you properly leverage people, process, and data you create the capability to break down silos and truly unify IT and your business.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch; Writer/Speaker


Bill Kleyman brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. Using the latest innovations, such as AI, machine learning, data center design, DevOps, cloud and advanced technologies, he delivers solutions to customers that help them achieve their business goals and remain competitive in their market. He was ranked #16 globally in the Onalytica study that reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape; and #4 in another Onalytica study that reviewed the industry's top Data Security Experts.


He enjoys writing, blogging and educating colleagues about everything related to technology. His published and referenced work can be found on WindowsITPro, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, AFCOM, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot and more.


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