Unify your data, tap into technology's future

Johannesburg, 07 Nov 2023
Muhammed Omar, country manager, Africa, ServiceNow.
Muhammed Omar, country manager, Africa, ServiceNow.

Fragmented data is the biggest barrier preventing most companies from realising their digital transformation plans. Yet this problem often goes unaddressed. Tackling mountains of enterprise data is daunting. Yet it's necessary to move into the future, and build-and-automate service platforms can help organisations create a digital brain from their data.

Data has been compared to oil and gold. But it's more apt to call data the new electricity, the energy that runs throughout our modern society. If your data is not in order, you can't expect to harness new technologies such as AI or hyper-automation. The latest improvements for operations, customer service, security and compliance will become infeasible for your business.

This is a problem for technology and business leaders. They need to unify their data into a single and reliable truth that everyone can use. The benefits are too substantial to ignore.

"Imagine a world where you will have a digital brain of your organisation, a digital view on how you're doing on a day-to-day basis," says Jessica Constantinidis, ServiceNow's EMEA Field Innovation Officer. "You can see where you are today, not the stats from last week that you pulled from whatever kind of BI reports you had at hand. What if every single meeting you go into, you can pull up a dashboard with current information?"

Overcoming data fragmentation

Rapid data growth has severely worsened data fragmentation. Multiple research reports, such as the IDC Global Survey of the Office of the Chief Data Officer, identify data fragmentation as the leading reason most companies don't achieve their digital transformation goals.

"Data fragmentation impacts everything in a modern organisation," says Muhammed Omar, ServiceNow's Africa Manager. "You've got multiple manual touch points, you've got frustration around slow experiences and fragmented engagement that's preventing service delivery."

Jessica Constantinidis, Field Innovation Officer: EMEA, ServiceNow.
Jessica Constantinidis, Field Innovation Officer: EMEA, ServiceNow.

The solution is to focus on business outcomes. Take fragmented customer experiences as an example. When call centre agents, salespeople or anyone at the customer coalface have fragmented information about the customer, they spend a lot of time just trying to catch up. This scenario provides a clear use case for unifying data, including which types of data and towards what outcomes.

Having this level of direction is a big step forward. The next is to use an environment that actively reconciles the relevant data – this is where a build-and-automate platform with a common data standard steps in. The leading platforms, such as ServiceNow, cut their teeth in IT service management and then evolved into a broad consolidation layer that supports unified data, low-code development and process automation across an organisation.

One massive advantage of such a platform is that it gives organisations natural ways to unify their data, says Patrick Gunn, ServiceNow's EMEA Vice-President of Technology Workflows: "It's all stitched together on the same platform. With the common service data model, we are all taking advantage of the same data model serving different processes."

Unified data boosts digital transformation

Unified data doesn't necessarily mean putting all data in one place. It primarily refers to accessing multiple data sources through integration, with processes to navigate and manage those different sources. The right platform brings that data together in a unified format that different parts of a business can access for their specific needs.

"Because of a common data platform, we've been able to do some significant integrations, not just internal but external parties as well. So we can exchange some of that information, just streamlining that entire process," says Nedbank's IT Infrastructure & Operations Executive, Freddie Mentz.

Above all, a platform approach means businesses can develop and scale their data standards at a manageable pace. They can gain experience while reducing the risks of data problems disrupting things. A build-and-automate platform does not replace a business's people or tools. It enhances them, bringing them all together while letting them retain their integrity.

"Disruption is a big risk – companies don't want to cause more damage while trying to improve things," says Omar. "That's the unique value proposition of the right unifying platform. It can bring together data and processes without rocking the boat, making space for companies to take their digital journeys forward."