Data provides today’s business executives with unparalleled access to customer and market insights, the ability to build tailored products and services with incredible ‘stickiness’, and the potential to build lucrative ‘walled garden’ ecosystems that enhance profitability.
However, as the volume and complexity of data has increased, it has become harder for organisations to fully extract full value form that data, as it is often buried in legacy estates and extracting insights often requires manual work.
Data Fabrics offer a “meaning-driven” approach to data, elevating the conversation away from technical details and definitions and towards connecting and contextualising data in a business context. This is done by overlaying extensive metadata to explain data to end users, as well as connecting it together in real-time based on common properties, all driven by an underlying data architecture that integrates data sources across on-premise, hybrid and/ or multi-cloud environments.
But what does mean for data users? Being able to discover and use internal and external data sets with rich business context, easily combine and integrate data sets into new solutions, and abstract technical complexities enables businesses to more fully utilise the potential of their data.
Despite these clear benefits, Data Fabrics are often viewed as too expensive for single use case scenarios and their specific benefits are often hard to clearly quantify - a great example of a technology that enables, rather than delivers, benefits in the minds of many.
It is indeed the case that a Data Fabrics take time to build and require mature data capabilities, a robust underlying data architecture and ML/AI services to run effectively. But in today’s digital economy, Data Fabrics can drive success by facilitating innovative and evolving data-powered digital solutions. They can also effect a valuable shift in organisational mindset towards the entrepreneurial – instead of having to align with an inflexible top-down strategy, individual employees can become innovators in real-time.
Data Fabrics can therefore drive significant change in three areas:
Culture. As noted above, Data Fabrics enable a culture of ownership and innovation at every level of the business through the empowerment of individuals to use data autonomously and responsibly by exposing the deeper meaning and implication of data, rather than just making it visible.
Knowledge. Data Fabrics enable greater insights and better solutions by overlaying rich business context onto data, allowing business users to better collaborate and innovate.
Transformation. Data Fabrics enhance speed and reliability in how digital solutions are built and run by enabling innovation through rich metadata that informs the design and operation of solutions.
Risks and mitigations
This unleashing of bottom-up innovation, as well as the significant investment required, does come with a significant risk – namely, how will this innovation culture will be governed and secured?
Building a scalable and resilient data architecture is an intrinsic part of a Data Fabric strategy; a legacy estate review and target state transition plans (aligned to business benefits) are prerequisites to any implementation - and robust data management is also needed to ensure accountability.
Ultimately, though, these risks can be addressed with the right planning and support, and the long term benefits outweigh the costs for organisations undertaking sustained digital transformation.
Data Fabrics allow data to be connected, integrated, and endowed with business meaning, significantly reducing the lead time for new solutions and time spent on low-value tasks. Adding context and meaning to data also ensures that collaboration is kept front and centre.
Because of this, businesses that face sustained digital disruption can achieve significant benefits from a Data Fabric - but implementations must be guided by an overall data strategy for how usable, governed data will be leveraged across the enterprise to deliver innovation and value.
The promise of democratized, fluid and connected data is an exciting prospect for businesses losing ground to digital-first competitors, and a measured, strategic approach can deliver real business benefits.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this installment of Capco’s 2023 Tech Trends series. Written by our in-house practitioners, the series covers composable applications, cybersecurity mesh, data fabrics and autonomic systems – topics that are both relevant and additive when addressing a number of the key business and technology challenges that the financial services industry is now facing.