By Dr. Tim Wagner, Co-founder and CEO, Vendia
Most companies today are understandably focused on what happens within their four walls. But if you depend on partners in order to run your business (think shipping, manufacturing, finance processes, etc.), then it’s also vital to think about that portion of your critical business data that’s created outside of your company. Because so much of this data resides with others, lacking effective, real-time data sharing solutions for partners means businesses experience serious challenges like shipping delays and increased costs…ultimately leading to unhappy customers and competitive challenges.
Think about it: If a car manufacturer can’t communicate with their partners in real time, they will struggle to ship cars faster and more cost effectively. Chocolate providers can’t track the source of cacao beans and communicate provenance to buyers without accurate supply chain tracking. And travel agenciescan’t give their passengers the best itineraries at the best price if they don’t have access to the latest information on available seats and customer profiles. From travel to groceries to cars, avoiding delayed data exchange and the high cost of errors associated with reconciliation processes is critical — especially in a challenging macroeconomic environment.
While the need for instant sharing of time-sensitive, operational data with internal or external parties is paramount to business success, many companies fail to do it accurately and effectively. Here are the top 5 obstacles to effective data sharing:
Too many clouds
Within a company, having multiple clouds is frequently an “accident” or a circumstance, rather than a deliberate choice. Different departments may be using different clouds for different purposes, but now that you have to share data across the clouds, you’re standing at the edge of a cliff looking down at a deep and vast canyon between public cloud providers, unsure how to cross it. This problem becomes even more pronounced when you talk about multiple companies working across clouds. When companies start building a solution in-house to combine data across multiple clouds, there’s a risk of spending months or years building a bespoke, ridgid, system that you will need to maintain and audit for the foreseeable future—if you even have the resources, time, and technical talent to attempt a multi-cloud data platform in the first place!
Lack of trust
Whether you’re talking about multiple companies or multiple departments looking to exchange data, there are physical and mental hurdles that need to be crossed. One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to data is trust. The way to overcome the trust issue is to create a single source of truth for your data, without duplication or reconciliation. That source of truth must be tamperproof, equipped with precise data and access controls, and easily auditable across time. Enabling rapid data exchange without sacrificing control — and without needing to question the authenticity of the data – is critical.
We no longer have the screeching background noise of a 56K modem connecting to the internet, and we certainly don’t have the patience for delays and downtime. Applications need to be fault tolerant, have high availability, and low access latency, regardless of location. That means your application and its data needs to span multiple geographies and data centers through a complex distributed system that is always in sync. With multiple regions in play, you now also need to ensure that if one fails, the others can take over. Less downtime is a benefit, but getting there is a complex and risky task laden with technical and regulatory challenges…one that few companies are staffed to support for every mission critical application and workflow they possess.
Scattered data across applications
For the longest time, companies hosted their own data on premises. With the rise of software as a service (SaaS) and the cloud, data scattered to all corners of your company. Each cloud-hosted service has its own purpose and data silo — a corporate jigsaw puzzle where you can’t quite grasp what the pieces are trying to make out. Data that was easily accessible to (and under the control of) IT is pulled out into public cloud repositories managed by vendors. Solutions that worked in previous generations – built-in ERP sharing solutions, EAI products, and API-centric solutions – are no longer viable in a cloud- and SaaS-based environment. Meanwhile, even the most modern SaaS-aware ETL solutions in the market target analytics solutions, not operational data sharing, leaving enterprises with few options to share their mission critical operational data. Instead of accepting the canyons between applications and data living in every corner of your company, you could take a holistic, overarching approach that allows the applications to meet up in neutral territory to exchange data.
Getting buy in
Change and technology innovation don’t come out of thin air. You need people to champion any initiative and rally others behind it. Many IT professionals are understandably skeptical of change; it often feels safer or easier to just maintain the status quo. When it comes to data and the exchange of data, every party feels ownership and has responsibilities of their own, from infosec rules to compliance regulations. This is one of the main reasons exchanging data across teams, departments, or companies can be challenging. If you can establish trust in the data alliance, the participants, and the data, the challenge is no longer a human one, just a technological one. Data platforms can replace costly (and time consuming) conversations through digitization and workflow automation. The way to establish this trust is with platforms that make the data timely, tamperproof, and transparent, while allowing the data alliance members to maintain control so they don’t feel they are putting themselves and their data at risk.
Regardless of the specific industry or the size of your business, optimizing for seamless and secure, multi-party data sharing is critical to business success, now more than ever. Businesses that partner with vendors that offer a single source of data truth will be able to overcome these obstacles and achieve meaningful impact that ultimately affects their bottom line.