Lego Data Architecture Lego Data Architecture Image by Markus Spiske from PixabayPrecisely has announced the publication of a report it commissioned from the Business Application Research Centre (BARC). The Future of Data Architecture study is based on a survey of 268 data and analytics leaders or executive/C-Level roles from mainly Europe and North America across several industries. Two of the key findings that the report highlights were that there is a disconnect between what business users felt about their data and analytics capabilities from that of the data specialists.

70% of business users believe that implemented data and analytics applications do not cover their current or future requirements. In contrast,  32% of central data and analytics teams share the same sentiment. Secondly, the era of the massive data warehouses appeared to be ending as companies are turning to a more federated landscape.

Emily Washington. Senior Vice President of Product Management at Precisely (Image Credit: LinkedIn)
Emily Washington. Senior Vice President of Product Management at Precisely

Emily Washington, Senior Vice President – Product Management at Precisely, commented: “As businesses increasingly focus on becoming more data-driven, they are being faced with huge volumes of data being generated at accelerated rates.

“The report clearly indicates a growing need for organizations to ensure that existing data management and architecture can meet, and adapt to, the fast-changing needs of the modern business.

“If organizations are lacking a clear strategy for data integrity, they will quickly find that the data fueling their most important decisions is inaccurate, inconsistent, and lacking vital context.”

What is in the report?

The report is 24 pages long, and after a forward by Precisely and BARC, it includes a management summary and five sections of graphics, data points and analysis. If anything is missing, the survey does not appear to have any qualitative elements. There are, therefore, no direct quotes from businesses to illustrate or evidence the analysis made.

  • Data & analytics users are surprisingly patient
  • Business user empowerment is about far more than self-service dashboards
  • Business domain experts must take responsibility for data products
  • Centralized data architecture concepts have served their time
  • Evolving a data culture is about people, not just buying technology

The management summary has an interesting format that provides a summary of each section with a recommendation for businesses based on the data and analysis. It gives the reader a clear take out from the report. Each following section then delivers the evidence and widens the text around the summary without providing the recommendation details. For those with less time, this summary section is worth a read.

Data & analytics users are surprisingly patient

The report highlights that business users are moderately satisfied with their data and analytics landscape. The respondents were only somewhat or very satisfied 57% of the time around query performance and 55% around the comprehensibility of the individual data models. Regarding the latter, there was a disconnect in dissatisfaction levels between the data and analytics competence centres (18%) and the managers and process experts in business units (39%).

Of greater concern perhaps was that 77% of executives found their existing data hard to find, and even competence centres acknowledged an issue (42%). All is not well. It seems systems are too complex and do not even meet expectations. What is missing is the why from this report.

Business user empowerment is about far more than self-service dashboards

Listen to vendors, and they all have self-service dashboards. However, business users still cannot use them effectively. 48% of business users cannot implement new requirements themselves. It points to a disconnect between use cases and the solutions on offer. Other key challenges include:

  • 43% Data for analyses must be tediously gathered from various sources 43%
  • 41% IT cannot react quickly enough to new requirements 41%
  • 37% Data landscape is difficult to understand – 37%

30% said that data warehouses do not cover their requirements. This rises to 43% when taking responses from business managers and process experts. The indication is that a federated landscape with connections to other data sources is now required. Respondents highlight the importance of four areas, with the majority finding these initiatives relevant, even if they are not always being delivered (<30%) within their business:

  • Giving business users more freedom in the use of data & analytics – 96%
  • Introducing analytics tools suitable for business users – 94%
  • Providing understandable documentation and navigation assistance for data – 93%
  • Introducing data preparation tools suitable for business users – 87%

Business domain experts must take responsibility for data products

90% believe establishing domain-oriented ownership of data products is a relevant measure. Despite this, 65% believe there is currently little responsibility for data within business domains. Certainly, something needs to change as 70% of Managers/process experts in business units found that data & analytics applications do not cover our requirements.

Is this a failure of IT and data teams, or should business teams take more responsibility? Are data and analytics part of their core business responsibility, or should analytics be surfaced within their day-to-day applications? It is a discussion that needs to be had.

Centralized data architecture concepts have served their time

The majority of organisations are still using data warehouses as a design paradigm. Data lakes are more prevalent (40%) in best-in-class enterprises, but with disconnected data sets, the authors argue for a federated system. This is backed by findings that indicate that 38% of distributed data is not easily linkable. Even when linked, there are concerns about data quality (37%).

Evolving a data culture is about people, not just buying technology

Technology is only part of the solution. While 92% of organisations recognise that they need more data documentation, only 28% have plans for a data catalogue. The disconnect between IT and the business is starkly illustrated by the data points in this section and by the data itself.

74% of business people see the harmonization of data as difficult to implement from an organizational/business point of view, against an average of 34%. Bear in mind that the 74% raises the 34%, and then unless the end users trust the harmonisation, it fails.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This is a well-written report but, like many others, does not quite manage to unearth or evidence the reasons behind some of the findings. The analysis is fair, though; for many, it will resonate. What is also missing is trend information, are business leaders starting to understand data and analytics better? Is the situation improving or getting worse? Other research has recently shown that businesses struggle to manage new data sources and maintain or improve data quality because of the proliferation of data available.

There are some interesting findings, and the executive management summary with its recommendations is well worth a read. Washington concluded: “It’s encouraging to see that business leaders are increasingly focused on breaking down data silos, improving the quality of their data, and enriching it for maximum context.

“To achieve these goals, organizations must implement a robust strategy for data integrity – combining data integration, data governance and quality, location intelligence and data enrichment to provide a foundation of trusted data that can be shared across the business. Whether the organization needs to automate decision-making, move fast and reduce costs, or manage risk and comply with complex regulations — a modern, and future-proof, data architecture is crucial to remaining agile in challenging times.”


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