Enterprise data strategies came under the spotlight after the experiences of the pandemic, their urgency highlighted by the potential upside of tactical insights and encroaching competitors.
"If they needed a reason to finally invest in data, they got one," said Michele Goetz, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. "The investment has been massive."
Nearly half of decision makers in global data, data management, data science and analytics say their group or department spending on technology products or services increased in the last 12 months. More than two-thirds expect to increase group or department spending on technology products over the same period of time, Forrester data shows.
Enterprise data strategies now feature more flexibility and integration, as companies set their sights on faster insights and the enablement of technologies like artificial intelligence and automation which depend on a successful data playbook.
Where before, investments in data were "little bubbles around data analytics," said Goetz, the use cases are now more defined. More investment in this area has also allowed enterprises to make changes in how data is collected, stored and used, and — if done right — change the way they do business.
When new data habits pay off
At the start of the pandemic, Honeywell was challenged with figuring out how to rebuild the company's architecture and infrastructure across 400 locations so as many people as possible could work from home.
The rebuild didn't halt their digital transformation plans, said Sheila Jordan, chief digital technology officer.
That decision paid off, Jordan said. The organization filled about 60% of their data warehouse with the rest to be filled this year. Honeywell has been able to "use this incredible data to solve business problems in real time," she said, especially when handling supply chain issues and inflation.
With "enterprise data warehouse, we're able to see inflation increases on some commodities and can match that with some of our pricing strategies and pass that along. We wouldn't have seen it so fast and so quick if we hadn't had the enterprise data warehouse."
Honeywell also uses Snowflake, a data cloud that pulls in third-party information, a move that Goetz said is increasingly popular.
Forrester recently found that as insight maturity increases, external data sourcing grows, and that nearly half of companies they label as "advanced insight driven data businesses" use data brokers.
Jordan said Snowflake-provided insights on weather have been especially helpful, especially regarding supply chain. "We have this plethora of data and are able to find those kernels of truths or insights that are really going to make a difference," she said.
A robust data strategy is also enabling advances in AI and ML, which still has leaps and bounds of maturity ahead. "We're scratching the surface on actionable insights," Jordan added, a term she uses for AI.
After the cloud migration
After waves of pandemic-related cloud migration, enterprises now have more data overall, and can use it in more impactful ways, if they rethink their storage and analytics strategies.
"It used to be that you [had] one format in a warehouse environment. Now you've got a raw data layer where you're just able to bring in information in its original state. Then you have an object layer, which starts to curate information," said Goetz.
That allows decisions to be made about that data like how it should be secured, and how the information can be made ready for a system application or capability.
More flexible warehouse environments also allow companies to "describe and re-describe your data in any way you want, depending on the context of what you need to know and insights you want to create," she said. "Storing in different states of readiness isn't just a processing factor: It's a strategy so you can make your data work for any type of use case or unknown right now using any type of data."
But without a storage strategy, all of that data won't come together to provide insights and will instead stay siloed, in some cases has become more siloed given that enterprises added more SaaS applications during the pandemic, said Karanjot Jaswal, co-founder and CTO at Cinchy.
These enterprises need to "eliminate bottlenecks, which is through integration," he said, which will only get harder the longer companies wait.
Instead, companies should optimize their operating environment and think long term.
"That's eventually going to become a massive bottleneck that impedes your ability to compete in the marketplace," said Jaswal.