Don’t let anybody hold your data hostage

Tomorrow’s successful business will be the one that transitions to an intelligent enterprise today, and this cannot happen in instances where the IT department refuses to democratise critical data.

Johannesburg, 02 Aug 2019
Read time 4min 10sec
Wayne Borcher, COO, tdglobal
Wayne Borcher, COO, tdglobal

The need to undertake digital transformation is of paramount importance to most enterprises today in order to remain ahead of the competition, by taking advantage of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and the Internet of things (IOT). However, the process of digitisation requires a different approach to previous technology implementations, in that ownership of this process cannot belong only to one area within the organisation, as other legacy systems have in the past. Instead, it needs to belong to the entire organisation.

According to Wayne Borcher, COO of tdglobal, digitisation is creating a situation where many heads of IT departments feel threatened, exposed and vulnerable, believing they will be the person held responsible should the digitisation strategy not deliver the results required. This, of course, leads to behaviour whereby they clamp down tightly on their area of the business, seeking complete control – the idea being that no one can get a look at what they are doing in case they are criticised and their credibility is damaged. It is clearly a frightening time for the traditionally all-seeing, all-knowing CIOs and their teams.

“One of the key pillars of digital transformation is democratising information and ensuring the enterprise has access to this data. However, we need to be cognisant of laws like POPI and the GDPR and their role in protecting data, so IT often remains reluctant to democratise it. However, until this occurs, they essentially hold your business data hostage,” says Borcher.

“The CEO may understand and see the need to digitise, but at the same time will not have the knowledge or expertise to achieve this, making them reliant on an already uncertain IT head. For the CEO, digitisation is vital if the organisation is to compete with new start-ups that have no legacy systems and have employed people from the 'always-on, connected' generation. For them, the ‘on-demand’ concept is all they understand.”

However, if the enterprise is to challenge these start-ups, it too will need to deliver services to clients in this on-demand world. And being ‘on-demand’, adds Borcher, means everyone in the business will want data for their digital initiatives – whether it is transitioning apps to the cloud, mobilising existing apps or undertaking an AI implementation.

“In a volatile business landscape fuelled by constantly evolving regulatory, technological, market and competitive pressures, those organisations that can gain an intelligent edge over their competitors will be the dominant forces of tomorrow. The ability of new competitors to utilise the cloud to spin up new business offerings or expand existing ones overnight, without needing to deploy dedicated infrastructure, software or staff means they can quickly gain the inside track. Thus, the only way large enterprises can compete is for them to transition into intelligent enterprises.

“Not only will this position them to compete with these new rivals, but it will ensure the democratisation of the company’s data, eliminating the possibility of the CIO or his staff – even accidentally – holding the organisation hostage in the manner described above.”

And ‘setting the data free’ is critical to the success of an intelligent enterprise in the experience economy, as – when coupled to innovations in the areas of big data, IOT and AI – organisations can analyse vast quantities of information. This will assist them to deliver detailed insights into their customers, products, service offerings, manufacturing processes, infrastructure and equipment. They can even make proactive adjustments to increase efficiency, optimise operations and improve the customer experience, continues Borcher.

“CIOs need to understand that their role in this intelligent enterprise is to know what types of data are being held, and how this can be democratised so the business can use it effectively. In other words, CIOs need to concern themselves with looking at the entire data domain, rather than at the data as siloed elements – in other words, the big (data) picture.”

“However, it must be understood that taking your business into the digital era cannot be the sole responsibility of the CIO. Just as the CIO and the IT department should not fence off data from the organisation, so everyone within the enterprise must understand they have a role to play in driving digitisation forward and placing it at the core of the business. It also requires businesses to establish an ecosystem of partners that can assist the organisation to achieve this transition quickly and effectively, while not losing what it already has that works,” he concludes.

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