Re-Architecting the Enterprise: The Role of Real-Time Data

The recent revolution in data infrastructure and application architecture has transformed the way all kinds of organisations, from the traditional to the digital native, work with data. Transformation requires a thoughtful strategy that drives the re-architecting of the enterprise. To truly take advantage of real-time data as the most strategic platform within your company, it must move from the domain of one-off engineering initiatives into a central nervous system for the enterprise.

We invited a group of technology VPs and product directors to discuss their organisation’s experiences with real-time data and more about:

  • What business cases are driving the transformation of your business?
  • Revolutions of real-time data and re-architecting for the future
  • Challenges with top level support and demonstrating business value

Rela8 Group’s Technology Leaders Club roundtables are held under the Chatham House Rule. Names, organisations and some anecdotes have been withheld to protect privacy.

About Confluent

Confluent is pioneering a fundamentally new category of data infrastructure focused on data in motion. Their cloud-native offering is the foundational platform for data in motion – designed to be the intelligent connective tissue enabling real-time data, from multiple sources, to constantly stream across the organisation.

With Confluent, customers can meet the new business imperative of delivering rich, digital customer experiences and real-time business operations. Their mission is to help every organisation harness data in motion so they can compete and thrive in the modern world.

Revolutions

For a long time, businesses have been able to continue operating as they might have done for years. Content to go about their business in the ways they always have, ideas of data and cloud-platforms never really registered as concerns. However, revolutions in technology are pushing businesses forward. Making bold new digital transformations are now essential for an organisation’s survival in the modern landscape. Businesses are now faced with the unenviable task of navigating the marketplace and properly leveraging new technologies to stay competitive.

Re-architecting for real-time

Data, traditionally the realm of IT teams, is driving businesses like never before. Data is not only being used to make decisions, but it’s also being used to run businesses, and in many cases the business product is data. Data therefore needs to be the lynchpin around which the digital transformation is focused. Consistency, accuracy, integrity, and availability must be prioritised when re-architecting your systems for the cloud or any hybrid solution.

Once an organisation’s data is healthy and accessible, then they can start to look at leveraging the benefits of real-time data as a business strategy. Being able to access up-to-date data in real-time is an enticing possibility, but one that needs to be carefully considered. What areas of your business would benefit from real-time data? The fact is, not every business element needs real-time data and investing in it for certain areas would be a waste. Prioritise the areas where time-to-market and profits are concerned to get the most value.

Another element to consider is what real-time means to your business? For some, real-time needs to be instant, whereas for others, it’s getting data within minutes. Understanding what timelines your business requires is critical. By understanding the needs of your business and prioritising correctly, organisations can implement real-time data strategies that promote business development and reinforce security.

Data-in-motion

Traditionally, data has been treated as something static, a single source of truth where all data is stored and can be accessed. Real-time data however is based around the concept of ‘data-in-motion’, where data can move freely between environments and use cases. Having a single source of truth for your data is at odds with concept of data-in-motion and as such, juggling real-time data with the same tools as would be used for static data causes problems.

People want access to their data on-demand. So, while the data is moving through the organisation, in different streams and workplaces, it needs to be available. The ability to materialise the data you need with the latest possible snapshot is something that’s increasingly becoming important. However, it is important to understand that re-architecting to a data-in-motion approach requires significant education of both the business owners and users.

The human elements

Digital transformations are always tricky from the user perspective. They have been using and accessing data in a certain way but that all needs to be changed to a new way of working. Moving to a space where data management and access is more tightly controlled is a steep learning curve for the users. Therefore, as you re-engineer and re-architect for your digital transformation, you also need to upskill your staff.

The same can also be said for hiring practices. It is a bad habit to get product specific tunnel vision, “we’re moving to AWS, we need an AWS developer” when there is no guarantee that your business won’t have moved on to something different within a few years. Businesses need to consider the future of their systems as much they consider the present as this lack of foresight can often put them behind the curve. To better help the business understand their future needs, it is important that IT professionals get better at explaining how the business technology is likely to evolve, why, and what value they can get out of it.

IT teams need to be able to articulate to the business leadership that creating data as a service and providing access to the right data is going to drive efficiencies across the board. These efficiencies go further than simply moving to an incrementally improved system and can mitigate the impact of business delays to programs and projects caused by inefficient data systems.

The shinier box

It is easy to get distracted by the endless parade of new tools and technologies, all of which promise to improve your business. With the platform or technology being a central part of how businesses operate, providing a clear use case is important. Organisations want to keep innovating and investing in solution technologies, but is that the right solution for the problem you’re trying to solve? If that’s not the case, then it’s not going to be a success.

When considering where to invest, always seek to secure the basics with the solution, things like target mapping, traceability and architectural hygiene need to be baked into your chosen solution. By ensuring that any transformation is always aligned with the business needs, unnecessary investment in shiny new tools can be avoided.

After the decisions have been made, getting the buy-in becomes the next challenge. By starting small you can avoid over-promising and failing to deliver. Build trust by starting with a pilot for a project that is guaranteed to succeed. From there you can demonstrate the value of their project and begin to scale up the transformation in increments.

Planning ahead

There is tremendous value in real-time data, but successfully implementing it comes down to how successfully a business can re-architect their data in the digital transformation. One thing is certain, there is definitely a need to start thinking about data in more ways than how we’ve traditionally viewed it.

Data is changing far faster than we are able to realistically keep up. Before we embark on any digital transformation, we must first take a step back and consider where the business could be and how the data might change in a few years, otherwise organisations will forever find themselves falling behind the competition while they focus on their next digital transformation.

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