Imagine a world where every business user had access to any and all of the data piled up in the nooks and crannies of the organization: financial data, social media data, purchase history, timestamps of this or that, IoT data from this one slow month or that other specific sales surge.
For the data nerd in many of us, the first thing to pop into your head — if you’re anything like me — may be the massive analytics opportunity. Oh, the correlations that could be made! Oh, the statistical analysis that would abound. The reality is so much more profound, with powerful automation available and quality controls in place. Yet the idea of an empowered, engaged business user is the vision that sticks with me most when I consider the benefits of cloud-based modern data warehouses.
Does this reality excite you? Does it scare you, just a little bit? Does it feel within reach or a distant pipe dream? The fact of the matter is, I’ve worked alongside leaders who have felt each of these sensations. The important thing is that they’re making progress - even if it’s just the first step of many to migrate enterprise infrastructure or improvements to an existing cloud. And while I realize that a lot rests on information input from various sources into well-structured data lakes for data warehouses to be effective, the biggest opportunity lies in enterprise data warehouse (EDW) modernization. In fact, more than 50 percent of respondents in Gartner’s 2017 Big Data Adoption Survey stated big data was one of their top three business challenges — and that EDW was the most likely way to derive value from it as a solution.
It’s like a massive spring cleaning: overwhelming at first, but found necessary in the process and deeply satisfying in the end. Airing out what’s there provides new clarity of purpose (What’s valuable? What will be a go-to set? What can be put out of sight – for now?) and enables fresh eyes on what’s at hand.
Because as we’ve seen over the years, it’s less about what you have when it comes to data, and more about what you do with it. This continues to be the true strength test for data warehouses today.
Working with our partner Snowflake has further bolstered my confidence in what’s possible for data warehouses moving forward. Not the data warehouses of old, but ones built for cloud, from the start, working with managed service providers on a system that can offer all of the gains of being cloud native. Ones that are fast — I’m talking available within seconds, not practically falling asleep waiting hours for a query to complete. And when the opportunity for real-time data access presents itself, so too do the opportunities for greater productivity — and for self-service data analytics to yield better “aha” moments. For those business users who perform best when able to move past numbers crunching into other endeavors, strong self-service platforms foster creativity, collaboration and synthesis. Equipping business users with just enough to suit their purposes — when and how they need it — to generate insights for consideration, helps them do their job better. And that’s no small feat.
The adage has always been that knowledge is power; that, given the right tools, business users will take more initiative, bringing insights to life from the data beyond. With modern, cloud-built data warehouses, information today is truly ripe for the taking. The process of designing and updating your data warehouse can and should go well beyond the realms of IT architecture. Its momentum — set against key business objectives — should be tracked across the organization, with checkpoints set out to illustrate newly available datasets, user interface updates and best practices in analytics and data visualization.
Making your data warehouse a tool for business users that is alive with potential — curiosity encouraged — can signal a shift in business drivers, employee behavior and even work culture. Because with new data readily available, more can be done in less time: a favorable climate for resourceful talent and for ingenuity to take hold.