Posted by  Hugh Cox  Published on  23 May 2014
  • Data Strategy

Data integration has been around for as long as information technology systems have been in place to store information. But has the process of bringing together disparate data sources really progressed over the past five years, especially in the era of cloud computing when new tools promise easier access to business intelligence?

A survey published this month of CIOs by Dimensional Research apparently shows the frustration many IT leaders continue to face and cloud computing isn't helping, with 67% of respondents concerned that cloud solutions are creating data silos in their organizations.

In turn, departments such as marketing or human resources are buying cloud-based tools on their own so they can overcome internal obstacles such as the perceived lack of support and lengthy implementation timelines from their IT departments. To support this notion, a survey by Avanade: “Seventy-nine percent of C-level executives believe they can make better and faster decisions without the involvement of IT.”

What is important to understand is the vital role of the CIO in helping their organizations exploit the value of data. CIOs hold the key to large reservoirs of data, sitting idly in on-premise systems, waiting to be used innovatively by the business.

If CIOs fail to give the business the data they want, information silos will remain as employees go off and search for their own business intelligence fixes. This will cost more in the long term; not just in the wasted investment in discarded tools, but lost business opportunities.

If CIOs want control of the data so that they can build a holistic business picture using data across all departments and departments want control of their own data so that they can support the growing analytics needs of their own department—is there a happy medium?

The answer is yes, you can have both.

For example, we regularly help our largest customers integrate, cleanse and enrich spend data from 30+ different internal sources. That’s easy to do especially when using the cloud to leap frog over the legacy issues of trying to centralize data in an existing on-premise reporting system. That’s not a simple task.

Quick wins can come from simple data integration in the cloud such as enabling procurement to obtain a single view of spending across subsidiaries or lines of business is powerful insight. The difference between data integration on-premise and in the cloud is huge. For one large public sector organization, it’s the difference between their calculation of generating $25 million in annual savings and our estimate of $200 million. Which one would you choose?

Regardless of your answer, unlocking the value of data doesn't start with the cloud but in the collaboration between the CIO and the business. Then, together, using the chosen technology, which is increasingly a cloud solution, the relevant data can be identified, transformed and accessed by everyone for reporting and analysis from a single data management platform.