Companies face a struggle to extract value from data, as systems come under pressure, not only amid COVID-19 but also from growing demand, according to a new report from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
Aruba’s report, which includes the results of a survey of over 170 IT decision-makers and network engineers within Aruba’s ecosystem in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), suggests that the majority are frustrated by shortcomings in data management. Asked about their biggest data challenges, 61% of respondents pointed to “not being in complete control of our company’s data”, 51% to “not being able to look at data holistically” and 52% to “not being able to translate data into actionable insights”.
The report titled Data to Decisions: A Rulebook to Unlock the Power of your Data responds by identifying a few key steps to help organisations make more of their data. Its main themes include:
Respondents recognise the potential of data to make their companies more efficient, innovative and customer-centric. They identified the ability to deliver better customer experiences (60%), drive efficiencies (38%), and drive product innovation (35%) as some of the biggest opportunities arising from better data management.
But they also highlighted shortcomings in existing systems and infrastructure that could limit those opportunities. When asked what they would like to be able to do with data that they currently cannot, respondents said their priorities were to enhance security (63%), conduct more real-time analysis (55%), make more decisions based on data (55%) and connect data better to core business functions (45%).
The need to upskill
The lack of relevant skills and knowledge within companies is another major concern. Over a third (36%) of those surveyed said “not having the skills in place to manage the explosion of data” was one of their biggest concerns. Meanwhile, the biggest fear among respondents is that “our employees won’t align with data policies”, cited by 28%.
To improve their skills and knowledge base around data, the report recommends that organisations focus on upskilling existing employees with deep sector knowledge, hiring a chief data officer with specific responsibility to organise and extract value from data, and creating data governance groups that include decision-makers from across all key business functions, ensuring their needs are reflected in data strategy and management.
“A lot of the most precious knowledge is already within a company,” says report contributor and tech philosopher Tom Chatfield. “Skilling up your employees so they can have conversations with computer scientists and use APIs is often much more valuable than asking a computer science PhD to quickly gain an understanding of a new sector.”
Security and compliance
As well as being at the top of IT respondents’ wish lists, data security is among their biggest fears for the future. Two of the top three concerns were security or compliance-related: 21% fear above all they will get hacked and 12% that their organisation will be fined under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations). Since South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and Europe’s GDPR overlap in nearly all areas, fears of fining under the POPIA act are also realistic. South Africa’s POPIA was set to take effect from 1 April 2020, but this date has been delayed due to the COVID -19 outbreak.
The report makes several recommendations on enhancing security, including that organisations should classify data according to different levels of risk, put in place a contingency plan for when data breaches occur, and use scenario-based training to improve employee awareness of threats.
“Employees are the last mile of security,” says the futurist Andrew Grill, a report contributor. “You can have the best firewalls and the best VPN. But if someone pastes the password file onto their Gmail and it gets hacked, that it all goes out of the window.”
Morten Illum, VP EMEA at Aruba, says: “Every organisation understands the opportunities data holds to drive innovation, hone product development and transform employee and customer experiences. As data and decisions move to the edge of networks, now more than ever, enterprises need to ensure their systems and processes are ready to cope. As this study argues, that means organisations need to upskill and train their people, put in place effective governance structures, and focus relentlessly on data security. The current global pandemic makes this ever more prevalent, as home working becomes the norm, yet consumer Wi-Fi lacks key security features at a time when cybersecurity attacks, targeting individuals, are rising.”
The research was conducted in March 2020 by Aruba. The study used a blended approach drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with two industry data experts, and futurist thought leaders Tom Chatfield and Andrew Grill. The project also undertook a snapshot survey from 172 IT decision-makers and network engineers across Aruba’s EMEA network.