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Why a Data First Approach is the Key to a Successful Digital Transformation

In this special guest feature, Julian Box, Founder and CEO of Calligo, discusses how every business leader has digital transformation on the brain. Julian founded the company in January 2012 and is responsible for delivering the company’s vision of building a client-centric business delivering innovative managed data services that optimize every stage of the data journey while ensuring that data privacy continues to be at the heart of an organization and its services. Julian is a serial entrepreneur and has started several start-up companies including VirtualizeIT and Virtustream Inc., a cloud service provider which was sold in May 2015 for $1.2b.

Every business leader has digital transformation on the brain. Every. Single. One.

But one thing a global pandemic has taught us is that the speed at which you transform can be accelerated mighty fast. Being forced to change the way people work and do business has catapulted many organizations into embracing a digital world at an unexpected speed.

One of the biggest issues that has arisen is remote data access and how businesses can provide it safely, securely, and reliably. For some, battling with older data infrastructures that tend to be clunky, vulnerable, and downright obstructive, it’s created a real conundrum and sped up the urgency to improve practices. But what it’s also highlighted is that a data-first approach is exactly where digital transformation should be focused.

Why a data strategy?

Many businesses approach digital transformation by looking at overall business objectives and problems and then applying technology to solve and support them. More often than not, it doesn’t work.

Why? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. Most of the time, companies presume that aligning their new initiatives to their business objectives is the best course of action. This keeps activities aligned, cohesive and focused. But what if the business objectives themselves are based on false presumptions of where the business needs support and improvement? No amount of technology will help a business that is focusing on improvement in the wrong areas.

The most successful businesses take a more fundamental approach. Rather than setting goals based on gut instinct and observation, they examine in granular detail, how data enters and moves through their organization. By really understanding their data workflows, they can quickly identify the areas of inefficiency, the governance weaknesses, the security gaps, and where money is being wasted. The It’s a ‘data up’ versus a ‘technology down’ strategy.

Only when you’ve identified the true issues should you consider adding technology to address them. With a data-centric strategy, improvements may just require a tweak to processes versus the adoption of bright, shiny new technologies that can come with a hefty price tag and learning curve.

Data safety first

A successful digital transformation aims to free up data in order to give more context around a business. But one important element within digital transformation is the need for enhanced data security and adherence to privacy obligations and governance requirements, which require more measures around control and confidentiality. The two seem to contradict each other. But they don’t.

Businesses can be so blinded by the potential benefits of digital transformation that they neglect to ensure the data being freed is safe to use. In today’s climate of heightened sensitivity around privacy and more employees operating remotely beyond the network, it has never been more critical. The only way to understand whether your business respects its data safety obligations is to achieve the most granular level of visibility for how the data enters the business, is treated, and interacted with – from hosting to backup to who has access inside and outside of the organization. This can expose governance and privacy liabilities or security gaps which if left untreated, can expose the business to serious financial, operational and legal issues. And more importantly, destroy customer trust.

Evolve and then evolve again …

Data is the most fluid asset a business owns. This means it moves quickly throughout your business and its movement is hard to control. It changes shape and size constantly. This makes it dangerous.

Many businesses have forgotten how quickly data can escape or be used unethically or illegally. Others don’t spot security threats, costs or opportunities until it is too late. This fluidity compels businesses to continuously evaluate how appropriately it treats its data.

Businesses that rely on technology strategies cannot move quickly enough to do so – their approach means they may never spot the threats or opportunities in time. And even if they did, their investments often restrict their willingness or ability to adapt.

Those with data strategies however can. Today, when all else is unpredictable, using what you already know – your data – will keep you moving forward when many others are standing still or worse, disrupted entirely.

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