Data Visibility
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8 min

Transform Your Data Visibility, Transform Your Organization

Ever hear the phrase “data rich, insight poor”?

It’s easier now than ever to collect data in a variety of avenues within your organization, but that data can only be as powerful as your organization’s ability to gain intelligence and insight from it. Not only that, but today’s organizations are required to adapt faster and more thoughtful than ever before as consumer, partner and vendor demands for data integration and visibility grow..

We see it frequently. Established organizations who perform thousands, or even millions of interactions per day rely on their data, but when they try to leverage it to gain actionable insights, the visibility and intelligence aren’t there. Departments then are coming up with their own separate insights and deliverables based on high-level views, assumptions and misguided metrics, making it feel impossible to gain the insight the business needs to make meaningful change.

Data Visibility is Crucial- Here’s Why

There’s no question that data is important to your business- but it really has the capability to either cause massive roadblocks or catapult your growth. For most organizations, data is much like an iceberg with only the smallest, least powerful insights showing above the surface. The deeper, richer intelligence lies beneath and often needs restructuring and replatforming to bring it to the surface.

Gain Actionable Insights

Data visibility enables an organization to leverage reporting and analysis tools to put dependable data in front of the teams and executives who need it most. This dimensional reporting  allows them to draw reliable conclusions and map out your organization’s best next steps. Whether you are looking for quantitative or qualitative next steps- your team has a clear look into the metrics that are most important to you.

Positioned for Scale

Today, data is currency. Lacking a cohesive data strategy and operation will hinder automation making it almost impossible to scale. With your data collected in one place and giving your team full visibility to make educated decisions- your organization is ready to not only move in the right direction but to expand more quickly as your needs and digital footprint grow.

Save Time

Not only is it risky to have your data stored in varying platforms, it’s also exhausting and timely to track the data when it’s required. This approach puts strain on every area of the business from executives to customer service. Multiply the time lost by the number of interactions per day across the entire business and the time loss becomes exponential.

The old way of gathering data might have been: Gather data from ERP, client systems, approximately 4 separate data systems, customer service department data. The data is “organized” in piles, presented differently and taking weeks to consolidate.

It’s not necessary, and it’s a massive time suck for team members who could otherwise be working on more impactful and productive tasks. Using modern data strategies and approaches, the era of “manually compiling reports” as part of day-to-day activities is over. Data automation and reporting will remove these tasks while increasing visibility and productivity in every area of your business.

Total Visibility

You’ll hear us say this repeatedly: consolidate your data and gain complete visibility into your organization. Without it you are at a major disadvantage and poised to fall behind competitors who are innovating their dataverse.

Conversely, with a consolidated approach our data is now in the right place and the right format, providing the actionable insights to remove barriers and find new gears of efficiency that can transform ROI.

How Do You Gain the Visibility and Intelligence You Need?

There are two clear, common paths for data transformation

Ultimately, your organization can choose from two paths- one a bit easier (but not as customizable) than the other.

Option One: Integrate Reporting Tool Directly with Database

Depending on how your data ecosystem is structured- and how your team utilizes its database- a software development partner can integrate a reporting tool within your existing database.

The pros to integrating with a reporting tool:

Time: Typically the timeline for a reporting integration is shorter as it connects directly so building other data solutions (e.g. warehouses) is not needed.

Cost: Just like anything else, it costs less to integrate with a tool that already exists than it does to build out something custom.

Option to move to custom in the future: If your organization leverages an existing tool and over the course of a couple of years realizes it would benefit from a custom approach - you can always choose to move forward with a more advanced solution (e.g. data warehouse) and carry the learnings forward to inform the new strategy. This could even save you money and time in the long run and give you both short and long-term solutions.

The downside to directly integrating with a reporting tool

Performance: This can be an issue when the database is handling your application's read/write transactions as well as complex data manipulation used by your reporting tools. Having your reporting tools actively running reports on the same data tables your applications use to perform everyday actions can lead to unexpected delays for the users of your application and the everyday actions they perform. Debugging the root cause for these performance spikes can cause countless hours lost by your engineers; who will have a difficult time reproducing the same latencies.

Does not include all data sources: If the database we are integrating reporting into does not house all the disparate data sources for the company, organization-wide data visibility becomes a challenge.

Schemas can change: In a single, or main database, the schemas can change due to shifting or growing needs. This means reporting can “break” or must be updated to match the new schema. With a data warehouse, the transactional database schema can change independently without affecting the data warehouse or reports being executed by people at your organization.

Too many hands in the pot: Reporting can involve sensitive company data, and pulling it directly from the primary transactional database means more developers and architects have visibility.  Teams that work on the applications at your organization are working on the database and have access to the sensitive transformations of the data on a regular basis. In the data warehouse model, developers do the setup but then the automation removes them from ongoing visibility.

Also keep in mind sensitive customer data, e.g. health records. Often compliance dictates who can and cannot gain access, which may be an issue when data is aggregated in your primary transactional database which more people typically would have access and interaction with.

Option Two: Build a Data Warehouse, then Integrate with a Reporting Tool

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to data- which is why building out a customized data warehouse can be a fantastic solution for an organization.

In this option, a data warehouse is built on top of all databases creating a central repository for all data sources. This allows for complete data visibility by aggregating and formatting all incoming data and making it available to reporting tools and services. Business analysts, data engineers, data scientists, and decision-makers access the data through business intelligence/BI tools (e.g. Power BI or Tableau), SQL clients, and other analytics applications to gain the actionable insights they need.

The Pros of Building a data warehouse

Total visibility on all sources: Building a data warehouse allows you to pull in ALL your data sources from your entire ecosystem, including partner and vendor data. This will assure you a true 360-degree view of your business and ecosystem bubbling even the lowest regions of the iceberg up to the surface.

Increased performance: By having a dedicated data warehouse in which to run your reports, your applications won’t be blocked by locks of complex queries generated by various reporting tools. This will boost the overall performance of your applications, as well as the rate at which you can generate your reports.

Set it and forget it: Yes, all databases need management and maintenance, but you will have far fewer developers or “hands” in your data warehouse once it is fully configured. You can also anonymize data in your warehouse, removing key identifiers to minimize compliance or internal risks.

Customizable: When you choose to create your own data warehouse- the sky is the limit. You have complete control over what goes into your warehouse- how it looks, how you interact with it, etc.

The downside to building a data warehouse

Slow Data Loads: If an organization has huge amounts of data to process and load into the warehouse. Extracting, transforming, and loading the data takes time and system resources, so assessing this and ways to mitigate the effects is paramount.

The disparity in source system: A data warehouse is only as good as the incoming data, so issues in the root databases or sources can propagate to the warehouse. The bigger issue is that organizations may not see, or catch this, for years.

Time to build: If you need reporting and insights NOW, then starting with direct database integration is probably your best bet. It takes time to properly develop the right warehouse strategy and platform to serve all your needs.

Cost: Building a warehouse is an additional step with associated development, maintenance and potentially licensing costs. That said, in this solution, you are also investing in the future by creating a key piece of systems infrastructure that will serve you for a long time to come.

If there’s only one thing you take from this article- it’s that regardless of which path you choose for data optimization, you’re already moving in the right direction. Data is your company’s most powerful asset in today’s digital economy- let it do the work for you!

Next Steps

Determine your strategy and approach. If you have a robust data team in-house, your next logical step is to begin meeting and strategizing with them on your approach and what is feasible today and in the future. If you don’t have the expertise, you’ll want to find a data/technology partner who can advise, strategize and assist. Data is too important an area to get wrong, so working with an experienced team of specialists will actually save you time and money, but most importantly, ensure the integrity of your data and maintain business continuity.

To learn what the best next step could be for your company- chat with a member of our team! Contact us.

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