InterSystems’ Chris Norton on the next frontier for data management
Within all organisations, the ability to leverage data to gain insights and inform decision-making has become increasingly important to enable greater efficiencies, and gain competitive advantage. There is often, however, a prevalence of data and application silos arising from the use of disparate systems. This, coupled with a disjointed set of technologies used for data management, data integration, and analytics is making the exploitation of data very difficult. Instead, large numbers of businesses struggle to obtain data fast enough, and in a way that is easy to interpret and share. As organisations strive to gain a consistent, accurate, real-time view of their enterprise data assets to make better decisions and realise their true value, many are beginning to consider next generation approaches. This is why data fabrics have come to the fore, presenting businesses with the next frontier in data management to help them overcome their current data challenges, futureproof their architecture, and extract more value from the huge volumes of data they are handling. What exactly is a data fabric? Data fabric is an architectural approach to data management that speeds up and simplifies access to disparate data sources, both within and outside the business. It accesses, transforms, and harmonises data from multiple sources on demand, to make it usable and actionable for a wide variety of initiatives. A data fabric allows existing legacy applications and data to remain in place, removing the need to duplicate data, and reducing architectural complexity. Moreover, using data fabrics eliminates delays and allows organisations to incorporate real time event and transactional data into processes, and into reporting and analytics functions. This also helps to eliminate errors and obviates missed business opportunities. As a consequence, businesses gain more accurate, current, and comprehensive information, while maximising the value from their previous technology investments. This is taken a step further with smart, or enterprise, data fabrics, which embed a wide range of analytics capabilities, including data exploration, business intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning directly within the fabric. As this can be incorporated into real-time process flows, dashboards, and reporting, businesses are able to obtain better insights to guide decision-making - to understand what happened, why it happened, and what is likely to happen in the future. These self-service analytics capabilities empower business users to freely explore the data, ask ad hoc questions, and then ‘drill down’ via additional queries based on initial findings, without needing support from data or IT teams. As a result, business leaders are able to make ‘in the moment’ decisions. It also becomes faster and easier for organisations to power intelligent predictive and prescriptive services and applications. Taking inspiration from other sectors Across a range of sectors, businesses are beginning to implement smart data fabrics to address their data management challenges, with the financial services sector among the first to realise its potential. By weaving together different data sets and providing easy and uniform access to data, a smart data fabric is helping financial services firms to generate insights that can be used for a wide range of critical initiatives, including elevating the customer experience and accelerating innovation. Following financial services organisations’ lead and embracing a smart data fabric approach to data management will help other businesses to do more with their data and further key initiatives that rely on access to current and consistent data. It will also allow companies to cater to growing demand from business users for more direct and simplified ways to derive insight from the organisation’s data assets. A new era for data management Businesses of all sizes and within all sectors are generating more data than ever before, hence, next generation approaches to data management are required. While previous approaches, such as data lakes and warehouses, served a purpose, they are now riddled with limitations. This makes it difficult for organisations to access the data in a timely manner and in a suitable format that allows it to be leveraged for insights. As the next frontier in data management, smart data fabrics overcome all of those limitations and give businesses a real-time, consistent view of the data from different sources, all from a single view. Armed with this, organisations will be well-positioned to use data to power a variety of critical initiatives, whether that’s managing risk, improving their products and services, or offering hyper-personalised customer experiences. In short, it will allow them to extract greater insights and value from their data and ensure data becomes a competitive differentiator.