Stranded and in need of rescue: Your enterprise data

With many reports claiming that over two thirds of digital transformation projects are still failing, Anna Bennett argues that a key reason is the fact that many enterprises are unable to securely access and use their main asset in the digital era – their data.

In today’s enterprise, it is still very common for data to be stored disparately in any number of locations and systems. Getting to a single version of the truth is virtually impossible to achieve with siloed data and different areas of the business act and operate in different ways, depending upon which version of the truth they are subscribed or have access to.

In fact, in an upcoming report released later this week, IDC name data silos as the number one challenge for Digital Transformation (DX). Because isolated data leads inexorably to isolated working practices and those are the antithesis of an integrated strategy, which is what DX is all about – Integration.

No wonder then, that figures such as those produced by Harvard Business Reviewand Forbes show that up to two thirds of DX initiatives are failing.

Optimal use of information is a Critical Success Factor for today’s enterprise. So much so, that IDC quote it in their forthcoming report as a top predictive factor for how well an enterprise will be able to monetise their digital investments. i.e. if you don’t have access to all of your data, you won’t be able to realise all achievable revenue.

What is Siloed Data?

Siloed data is data that is not accessible to the main part of the business, so although it may well be heavily protected in its Ivory Tower, it won’t serve you well in the long run. Does the data from the company you acquired two years ago still sit within a separate firewall, largely inaccessible to Sales & Marketing? Does the data you hold on a customer or a patient require you to combine multiple different databases to get an accurate picture? Does your supplier hold data that you need access to? Data that is critical to your own business can often be siloed outside of your organisation.

Why and How Did Data Get Siloed?

A number of factors have led to most enterprises being lumbered with a siloed data infrastructure. The most common reasons for this having happened are:

· Security: heavily-gated data, sectioned off for security purposes but largely inaccessible

· Acquisitional growth: data not incorporated properly into the business, residing in remote areas of the infrastructure

· External relied-on data: data that you need to access that is not owned or managed by your company and does not sit within your infrastructure

Is Data More Secure in Silos?

Quite simply, no. Not even nearly.

The idealists who set up these infrastructures argued — on creation — that data jettisoned off on its’ own private island within the kingdom of the infrastructure is ‘safe’ — the theory being that if it can’t be reached, it can’t be breached.

However, actual life has bitten hard and the realists amongst us know that the humans in this process will always find a way to circumvent security in the name of progress.


What actually happens to most useful data in silos is that it is shared by insecure means


What actually happens to most useful data in silos is that it is shared by insecure means; downloaded and shared via Wetransfer, public Dropbox, emailed spreadsheets, memory sticks, etc.

The prevalence of data breach scandals in the news every single day shows us that this is exactly what is happening. Data isn’t safe in silos. It gets out in an unsafe way whilst being corporately unusable. Hardly an ideal situation for anyone.

Do I need to Share My Data?

There is simply no value to data if you’re not sharing it. If you’re not sharing it, you may as well delete it.

You need to share data with your employees so they can do their jobs and so that they can see where things need to improve. You need to share data across the supply chain to ensure that everyone is working to optimum capacity. You need to share regulatory data with regulatory bodies. You need to share personal data that you hold with the person on whom you hold it and in many circumstances, with an authorised third party of their choice. You also want access to data that other companies have that you may jointly benefit from.

Yes, you need to share data.

I worry about Data Breaches …

And so you should! Because if you don’t have the ability to control access to a secure common foundational data layer at a granular level, you’re either:

Showing People Nothing: Very much like the idealists who set up data silos, if you are showing people nothing even ‘Good Actors’ with good motives will resort to getting hold of the data they perceive they need in order to do a good job. They can only do this in an insecure way, putting you at risk of data breaches.

Showing People Everything: In which case, you are exposing all of your data to anyone who needs access, putting you at risk of data breaches.

Showing People Some Old Data: Carving up spreadsheets to give people only a certain view of the world results in numerous parties holding numerous versions of the truth, which is risk-ridden for many reasons. And because it’s a database, you have no control over the security of it, putting you at risk of … yep, you got it … data breaches!

Bringing It All Together

So, what enterprises need in order to circumnavigate the number one issue for failure in Digital Transformation (DX) is a common foundational data layer that makes data:

· accessible only to the appropriate persons: at the appropriate time, in the appropriate context

· accessible only to the specific record or single entry that the appropriate person requires in order to do their job properly

· secured via enforceable consensus-based trust principles

· revocable, making sure that once an appropriate person or company is no longer appropriate to that data set, all access is immediately and irretrievably revoked

· immutably recorded, so that a state in time may always be accurately determined for compliance purposes and may not be changed

So when you next question whether blockchain is a technology that you can really use within your enterprise, think about whether you’d benefit from truly secure data that you have the ability to share outside your enterprise, whilst retaining complete control of it.

If the answer is yes, come and talk to us at Gospel!

Anna Bennett is VP of Partners at Gospel Technology.

You can find Anna on twitter @AnnaB_Tech and join the data distribution discussion!

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