When it comes to discussing new data management solutions, you may have heard people say, "we need to get to the cloud" or "why can't our current solution, do that?" The thing is, do you actually know all the capabilities of your current solution? Or if you do need a new solution, what you'd require? For a data management strategy to be successful, these questions need to be answered first.
Review your Current Strategy
Before you decide to invest in a new data management solution like a cloud data warehouse or a database as a service (DBaaS), it might be worth taking a step back to assess the capabilities of your current data management environment. Do you have access to a data lake to help manage costs? Does your solution have advanced analytics embedded to help you transform your data into value? Whether you're currently running an on-premise data management solution or have already begun your move to the cloud, avoiding the "I didn't know my current solution could do that" situation can save everyone time, money, and resources.
Of course, there will always be something that your current solution doesn't do or could do better. But it's worth investing some time to make sure you know the capabilities of what you already have, and that you're not missing some new feature or configuration option.
Companies can fall behind on a solution's current capabilities for a few reasons:
- Your business requirements may have evolved, so the reasons you went with one solution over another or its initial configuration, may no longer apply.
- The employees who were initially using a solution or a specific feature may have left, and their replacements didn't get the necessary training.
- Companies may miss new features because they simply forgot to read the latest update notes from their data management vendor.
Even if you discover that your current solution doesn't offer everything you need, the time you invested in learning its shortcomings is still valuable. If you know how it falls short, you'll better understand what you need from the new solution.
Getting the Right Solutions
Choosing a new data management solution is a collaborative project. It requires different departments in the company, including IT and those in the business organization, to come together with an understanding of each other's roles and concerns. The process can do wonders for company communication and trust because data management questions are ultimately company questions. Together the company needs to look at these data questions and find ways to solve them.
Understand what Data is Valuable
Determining what company data is worth storing and managing means deciding what data is of value to your company. To build a home for your high-value data, you must decide – as a company – what data is useful. You'll also need to know which business functions or regions need what data (and how they will use it), how far back in time the data needs to go, and how detailed the data needs to be.
Answering these questions will require the team setting it up (IT professionals, data analysts, and programmers) to talk to the business subject-matter experts (like sales, marketing, and purchasing). These subject experts will need to consider the types of information they need to track. Then IT can set up the data management solution and teach everyone else how to access it. Companies that critically assess what data is valuable together will have a greater appreciation of the challenges other departments face, especially between IT and business.
Centralizing your Data
Many reasons stop people from sharing data throughout a company. Departments can be territorial when it comes to their data. Maybe people don't understand the data's value, can't access it, or they don't know it exists. Whatever the reason, when data remains locked up in closed silos, the company's decision making can suffer.
Centralizing this high-value data in a management system, by its very nature, requires company data silos to be dismantled. For example, companies with multiple products will often have marketing-and-sales departments for each product, each of whom will have their data in their databases. If you put everything together in a data warehouse, the sales and marketing performance of different products becomes trackable. Finance may look at this data and see a way to save money. In contrast, the product development team may see an opportunity to improve an existing product or service. However, that will never happen if the data remains hidden in different departments.
On-prem, Cloud, or Hybrid
Finally, you must decide whether the solution should be on-premise (on-prem) or in the cloud. Both options have their pros and cons; the best choice depends on your needs. Cost, setup time, security, control, and compliance all differ between on-prem and the cloud (read more here about deciding on the Cloud or On-Premise). The different cost structures mean on-prem solutions are generally considered a capital expenditure (an investment upfront), and the cloud subscription an operating expense (an ongoing cost).
Review your Data Solution Regularly
There are a few things you can do to avoid the "I didn't know my current solution could do that" situation in the future. First, assign someone in the business to keep up to date with the latest updates and advances of your new data management solution. Plus, allow the designated person to train with your solution vendor's online resources, conferences, and in-person training sessions. Finally, establish a routine meeting where the designated person can run the rest of the team through the latest updates.
At SAP, we publish the latest product updates in blogs, release notes, and videos to help you with your data management strategy. We also have detailed learning materials to make sure your team understands how to get the most out of our products.