Today, forward-looking organisations count data as a strategic asset, and every strategic asset needs a custodian. Just as the CFO manages financial assets and the CHRO or COO manages ‘human’ assets, organisations need a custodian to manage their data assets.

However, with an asset as enormous and unwieldy as hundreds or even thousands of datasets, this isn’t as simple as it might sound. In a world where most important decisions are based upon data, and where data protection and privacy issues abound, data custodians have one of the most important jobs in any organisation.

Across the globe, digital transformation is taking place in every vertical and industry. So why are many data strategies still siloed and, quite frankly, archaic? Data management needs to move with the times and support digitally transformed businesses by providing digitally transformed data architecture. Legacy architecture simply won’t work for modern data anymore – we need to rethink data strategy, and the custodians to back it up.

Here are some points for those reviewing their current data management:

  • A data custodian needs to know what the data assets are and where they are. What sort of data does the company collect? Why is each data point significant? How can collecting and applying it better serve the company’s customers?
  • They need to know how to protect this data. Which measures are in place to keep it safe and preserve its value to the company? What security plan does the company have to keep customers and their data safe? Is this plan compliant with local and international regulations? For example, the General Data Protection Regulation?
  • Data custodians need to ensure that the company can use their data to create value for the company. How is the company leveraging data to make more informed decisions? How are these findings affecting the way the company advertises to and serves its customers?

All three facets are equally important to any company, and they may seem pretty straightforward at first glance. But there’s a major roadblock preventing some data custodians from even getting started.

Breaking down the data silo

The hurdle that keeps data custodians from fully understanding their company’s data assets is how and where companies keep their data in the first place. Data tends to be both siloed and stored in multiple locations, and this is a huge problem for custodians who need to index and protect data smoothly and easily.

Business units often purchase applications independently (especially web-based/Software as a Service applications) with their departmental budgets, without seeking approval from the CIO. Additionally, different units will purchase different applications that apply exclusively to their work.

For example, the marketing department might purchase a marketing automation application like Marketo, collecting marketing-specific data, while the sales department might purchase an online sales management application like Salesforce, creating a separate data silo. Additionally, the CIO might not even be aware of all the software applications that the different business units have purchased. They likely don’t know where or how the data for each application is stored, either.

This creates several issues because this data exists in separate silos, data repositories that aren’t integrated with the organisation's enterprise-wide data administration system. That means only the marketing department can use marketing data, only the sales department can use sales data, and so on. This is bad for business because the more relationships a company can create between its data points, the more holistic the view of its data, and therefore of its customers.

Aside from integration, data siloing also negatively affects security and strategy for the company. If the CIO isn’t notified about these online application purchases, they can’t include them in a company-wide data protection solution, nor can they develop big picture plans for the company’s digital future.

The solution: an independent platform

Data siloing hurts companies and their customers in the short and long term, but there is a solution: an independent data platform that sits in the middle of all these data sources and can access all of them.

To enable a successful digital transformation, a company needs an overarching platform that has the capability and privileges to protect and search its data wherever it may live – whether that’s on-premises, in the cloud, on laptops and thumb drives, or on connected Internet of Things devices.

The platform can protect that data by making regular backup copies, while streamlining compliance with data privacy regulations across the board. Most importantly, it must enable the CIO to use the data generated as part of the company’s digital transformation strategy – regardless of where it might be located – to drive value across the business.

A truly successful digital transformation project will break down silos and enable companies to know, protect, and use their data. Only when all three of these responsibilities are being addressed can a company truly say that is managing customer data in a way that’s responsible, accountable, and transformational.