The executives I talk to often tell me they are pretty satisfied with their organisations’ data management approach. They haven’t experienced any system outages costing their business, and they didn’t get hit in the latest high-profile malware attack, so why mess with it? For the most part, they are happy to settle for a sub-par approach to data management.

It’s no secret that if an organisation truly wants to leverage the value of its data, its data management approach needs to do more than just organise, search and sort. It needs to be able to govern, protect and deploy data according to a coherent strategy laid out by the leadership team and facilitated by a single, comprehensive platform.

Without this strategic – not tactical – framework, it will continue to struggle to harness and extract the most value from its data assets. In this data-complex era, it’s not enough to just ‘make do.’ Shifting from a ‘make do’, legacy-hampered approach to data management, to a flexible, forward-thinking and data-centred mentality is certainly not easy, but it is necessary. Here are three major considerations you need to confront in making the change.

Making the shift: From legacy to forward-thinking

First and foremost, overcoming the ‘bare minimum’ approach to data management requires a shift in thinking. You can have the latest and greatest in data management systems, but if this is coupled with an old management method, you compromise your success from the very start.

As the nature, location and application of data change, it has never been more important to adapt your behaviour and strategy to truly know, use and protect your data.

To meet the challenges of the future, you need to put your data to work safely, avoiding compliance or security issues. You need to access the right data at the right time, and to combine various sources of data to give you insights about your business.

Simply put, you need more flexibility. Whether you plan to adopt a hybrid or cloud-first strategy, it’s time to start striving for that flexibility – starting with your thinking.

Have buying power? Use it

It is important to realise that shifting out of a legacy mindset gives you the power to make the respective changes to your data management approach and systems. While legacy vendors would have you believe you have no other option but to walk hand in hand down a predetermined path with them, it’s no surprise that their sales staff are trained to make you believe that.

Somewhere along the way, legacy vendors became the ones to tell businesses what is and isn’t possible with their data. Unfortunately, the complex integration of multiple legacy systems meant that many decision makers believed what they were saying.

Ultimately, no-one knows where an organisation is going better than the people in charge of it, which is why it is vital that you take back control of your buying decisions. Organisations own their data. There are many flexible, modular solutions available that allow companies to design their own data management systems in accordance with their needs.

Companies don’t have to lock themselves into static legacy solutions that won’t grow with them as they scale or evolve as technology changes. Adopting an open and flexible mindset to data management allows you to question the status quo and strive for something better; to realise that you can make decisions around your systems that transform the way your organisation manages, protects and uses its data.

The system overhaul: Simplifying the future

Naturally, a forward-thinking approach to data management implicates the systems that underpin it. Even in the most progressive organisations, the back office is often still dependent on data management systems built without today’s agile work environment in mind.

These legacy systems are expensive to update and maintain, and difficult to integrate with the new, ultra-flexible systems built to meet tomorrow’s business demands. What’s more, many of these are meant to solve specific problems. This means that building a comprehensive solution requires linking together multiple siloed solutions from many different vendors – making an already complex environment vastly more complicated.

This creates an ongoing funding tug of war, as data leaders work to keep patchwork solutions up and running on an increasingly tight budget. The systems’ lack of flexibility also spawns data access and compliance issues, especially as companies scale up and their needs change. Often, these outdated and scattered systems are so deeply intertwined with the company’s processes that it’s virtually unthinkable to get rid of them.

This is why so many businesses are happy with a data management system that meets the bare minimum, rather than exceeding expectations. But imagine a future where you could work with any vendor singing the same tune as your business.

You could work in the cloud, to the cloud and from the cloud with any cloud service provider. Your data is mobile. You can turn applications on and off as you need. You can move between different services, balance your workload across different providers.

Radically simplifying the environment like this can pay huge dividends for organisations, enabling them to get maximum value out of their strategic data assets. The point is, technology is rapidly changing and your organisation’s needs will continue to evolve with it.

Making the shift now to simplify the future of your data management and introduce the flexibility that allows you to leverage your data assets is one of the best decisions you can make.

Start with your thinking, follow through on your buying decisions, and overhaul your legacy systems. Do you really think you should be locked in step with another organisation, a vendor, who doesn’t share your goals? I didn’t think so.