By Neil Thurston, Chief Technologist, Logicalis UK&I
Data is a valuable business asset, yet many organizations are still not managing it with the same rigour they apply to physical assets.
Failing to manage data effectively creates business risks, costs and missed opportunities. These range from increased exposure to cybercrime and regulatory breaches, to spiralling storage costs and valuable information becoming effectively invisible.
This article looks at how data often misses out on being treated in the same way as other business assets, and gives an overview of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), the standard methodology that drives managing data as an asset.
Effective ILM is a prerequisite for any business looking to minimise regulatory and information security risks and maximise return on its investment in data.
Why has data not been managed like other business assets?
Maintaining accurate visibility and control of assets and inventory is a fundamental business principle. Inventory control was a primary use case for Herman Hollerith’s transformative punch card technology, right from its invention in the late 19th Century.
Delivering accurate inventory for physical stock, components and assets was one of the selling points for the materials management systems that evolved into today’s ERP platforms.
Yet businesses have rarely treated the data that drives these enterprise platforms with the same consistent focus and rigour as they apply to managing their physical assets.
Before digitalisation, this was probably a reasonable call. A business asset must have direct value, risk and cost to the business to make it worth managing, and data largely didn’t meet these criteria.
The information that your business sold an oat milk cinnamon latte to regular customer Kanu at 10.32 on August 3rd, paid for by contactless card, is only an asset to the extent that it can create value for the business or expose it to risk.
Before analytics, GDPR or ransomware, when Kanu would have paid for a coffee with a few coins, and the transaction was probably recorded as a couple of numbers on a till roll, the business case for formal data management was weak.
The growth of digital business and its associated risks and costs has changed all that.
The world of data has transformed and needs to be managed
Risks and rewards around data have grown exponentially as digital technology has become an increasingly integral element of how we do business.
Kanu’s coffee purchase provides datapoints for analytics that provide actionable insights on how to run the business better, personal data that needs to be protected and managed to meet regulatory requirements, and, potentially a vector for bad actors to exploit.
Data has become at least important to the business as its physical assets, and needs to be managed accordingly.
How ILM brings data in line with other business assets
An effective business manages each physical asset from acquisition to disposal, so it is known at any point in time where it is, who is responsible for it, where it is in its lifecycle, and how it adds value.
ILM delivers the same rigour to managing data. It categorises and catalogues data as it is created or discovered, establishes ownership, sets and applies rules and timelines for retaining the data, and determines how and when the data is deleted or archived.
There is increasing technological support for ILM which can automate discovery and administration to reduce overhead.
To be fully effective, ILM needs to be set in the context of a wider data strategy, aligned to business objectives, driven from C-level, and woven into the fabric of the organisation
Logicalis UK&I have helped many clients deliver success in managing and maximising value from data through best practice ILM deployment