If the legends of yore are to be believed, King Arthur had to go through quite some trouble to either extricate his sword from a rock in a churchyard or retrieve it from the Lady of the Lake. Good news then for those looking to get something of serious value from data: these days, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as drawing blood, or indeed a sword, from a stone. Modern tools and techniques mean everyman gets a ‘data Excalibur’.
In a previous blog, we introduced the concept of ‘Datability’, which is all about releasing data value faster and with less hassle than ever before. With the emergence of cloud infrastructure like Microsoft’s Azure, tools like WhereScape RED to organise your data and of course a bit of consulting goodness in the form of NOW Consulting, your data doesn’t have to sit there (figuratively) glowering in a (figurative) corner. Instead, you can quite rapidly put it to work for you.
That should beg the question of ‘well, how, then’? Closely followed by ‘and what, exactly, should I do with it?’ Good questions, to be sure.
This is where the concept of ‘Possibility’ which we have inextricably linked to Datability, comes to bear.
Take Lumino the Dentists, part of the Abano Group. In exploring Possibility, the company shifted its data warehouse into Azure and automated it with WhereScape RED: “Being in the cloud is a game changer for us; we’re ahead of the pack. And it was a logical choice to purchase WhereScape RED, which has proved itself invaluable,” says CIO Peter Radich.
“By moving to Azure we’re making real savings and that’s just the initial upgrade; we haven’t even really done optimisation yet,” he reveals.
And while some of the results of the Datability exercise are commercially sensitive, he hints at the value which is being created for an organisation with ambitions it is steadily fulfilling: “We wouldn’t be able to achieve the numbers and growth we do achieve [without it].”
Possibility isn’t cast in stone
It may surprise some that many of the organisations with which we work, and which have made a conscious decision to become ‘data driven’, don’t necessarily have clear ideas of how they will use their data.
On the face of it, that’s shocking. How can this be? Do you mean to say there isn’t a definite business plan?
Well, yes and no. Typically there is a (far better than) vague idea of what is sought from the data, so it isn’t like these companies are flying blind. But while there are some definite goals, going to work on the data is far from comprehensive, prescriptive or set in stone like Arthur’s knife.
Instead, data driven organisations work with the concept of possibility. They embrace curiosity. The clever folk there have taken on board that data has multidimensional value and potential, and appreciate that at the outset, it is difficult or impossible to fully gauge or appreciate what that potential is until you unleash some data scientists and big data specialists on it. Or – and here’s another exciting Possibility – the regular folks working in your company trying to solve business problems (more on that in a moment).
It is the very availability of cloud infrastructure and cloud tools which make it possible to expose Possibility. In the not-so-distant and not-so-good old days, it would just be far too expensive to let people experiment and explore. You’d have to spec tin worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get off the ground and then add all the other attendant costs. With indefinite outcomes, the finance guys would probably have a heart attack, if they weren’t first consumed by a laughing fit.
Once data is in the cloud and sorted into a data warehouse or other suitable structure, the really fun stuff starts. Analysis and insights, in other words.
Did I mention that Possibility isn’t just for those boffin data types? Tools like Microsoft’s Power BI put the power of data visualisation and analytics into the hands of everyman, too. Well, OK, not every everyman, but you get the idea. Democratisation of analysis with an affordable, easy to use tool means it is easily possible to make advanced analytics broadly available to those who could do something with it. The more minds ‘having at it’, the more Possibility is explored and exposed.
There’s even more to it, and that’s tied to the Azure PaaS. With multiple data tools built in and available as low-cost services, advanced techniques like artificial intelligence and real time analytics can be test-driven for little or sometimes no cost (try before you buy, and all that). If it delivers value, go ahead and implement for ‘dollars per month’.
This kind of thing was until very recently solely the domain of the sorts of big enterprises you’d expect to be using it (banks, telcos, consumer brands companies, etc). But that great leveller, the cloud, has effectively put a data Excalibur within the grasp of just about any data driven company eager to test the keenness of its blade.
The question now is, do you have what it takes to draw it from the stone?