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Make the Journey to the Data Intelligence Promised Land, Securely

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Read more about author Dave Sikora.

To take your organizations to the next level, C-level executives are faced with the compelling need to make sense of your data, generate data intelligence, and create a higher-level understanding of your customers and your business. The only way to get there is to combine your distributed data sets into a consolidated, holistic view of all your data. This is driving a massive migration of data consolidation across the data landscape, especially among enterprises with thousands of customers and potentially millions of transactions. While the most visionary leaders understand the need, embarking on a strategic big data initiative like this is no easy feat.  

Today’s “data pioneers” should make sure you have these three essentials in place to know, control, and protect sensitive data throughout the journey:

1. Map your route and identify the pitfalls you’ll face on the way

You’ll be moving massive amounts of data, very frequently along what is essentially an unpaved, dirt road, fraught with potholes and pitfalls. And you can multiply the number of routes by the number of data sources you’re working with. You’ll be using a unique road for every on-premises database, every backend system, every business application, every cloud-based software solution. Each data source will have its own path and its own snags. And every day, as new data is created and stored in businesses systems, that data will follow the same process. Transporting data on this scale creates enormous vulnerability, but you’ll need to map your data ecosystem, inventory your data sets, understand the quality and what needs work, and document where your most sensitive and regulated data exists today in order to grasp where exactly the vulnerabilities lie. 

2. Rope in your technology and security experts

Because these initiatives are primarily intended to achieve specific business results – improve operational efficiency or grow customer satisfaction and sales for example – they’re generally business-led by the CEO or CDO, rather than technology-led by the CIO or CISO. But you wouldn’t undertake any kind of dangerous expedition without a security expert, would you? Your CISO shouldn’t have to chase after you – the best strategy is to include your security and IT teams from the very beginning as you’re planning your route and identifying dangers. They can help you make smart decisions about solutions that can enable a smoother and safer journey. They can also jump in when technology is the only way to overcome surprise obstacles. And if they’re not involved, the initiative is doomed to fail because, without them, the situation will be extremely unsafe for the company.

3. Visualize your data intelligence promised land

Your end destination will bring all this data together intelligently and put an analysis layer above it. You’ll end up with a rich big data core in a cloud data warehouse like Snowflake, with powerful AI/machine learning analytics layers on top. This can take disparate data points from your HR, CRM, or inventory system that each might have two or three critical pieces of information, connect the dots, and generate detailed composites around your customers so you can target them in a much more effective and timely way than ever before – that’s data intelligence. But to reach that and create a truly 3D model of your customer, you’ll have to include sensitive data points about them. This means you’ll need to decide who should have access to that data, determine the appropriate policy and protections, and implement those controls, while still ensuring the data is operational and can be utilized to full effect. If you include sensitive data but require it to be encrypted for security reasons, for example, that prevents it from being utilized, and you haven’t reached your vision of a fully operational data intelligence promised land. 

While this journey does come with significant risks, they are manageable with the right preparations and partners. Staying in the same place can be just as dangerous or even more so, because if you aren’t making the move, your competition is pulling ahead. 

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