There are few parts of business that the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t impacted, in some cases creating pervasive and long-lasting change.
While no one knows exactly how our lives will emerge from this upheaval, for businesses it’s clear that long term survival depends on agility.
Entire workforces have been mobilised in a matter of weeks. Employees – even the Luddites among us – have had to adopt new ways of working and many are in no rush to return to the traditional office! Underlying the uncertainty is a new, flexible, entrepreneurial attitude that is driving change and boosting innovation. Companies having an IT ecosystem that can harness this unprecedented opportunity are the ones positioned to thrive as a result.
All of this, however, relies on robust practices in data management to provide empowerment, control, security and knowledge across disparate and decentralised business operations. This relies on three key characteristics of the ‘new normal’ of data management:
Accelerating digital transformation
Digital transformation has progressed according to some estimations by 3 years in the last 3 months as companies everywhere invest in a more flexible and hardworking backbone for their business. Projects that previously met resistance or were repeatedly de-prioritised have catapulted to the fore. But, without a digital-first mindset, organisations will struggle to compete against the agility of those equipped to pivot and adapt all aspects of their operations to stay afloat.
This also means that companies may have had no choice but to quickly deploy new applications that support adjusted working practices. These applications need to be integrated into the IT architecture – the simplest way is using an integration platform, or iPaaS – and interlinked with neighbouring operations to create a digital ecosystem rather than bolted-on functionality.
Data sharing, insight and risk
Making data available and accessible throughout the organisation’s ecosystem is crucial to the new levels of agility on which businesses demand. Continual innovation and the ability to pivot comes from a data management strategy that seamlessly integrates data sources across the business. It makes insights available to drive better, faster and more innovative decision making. It also creates access to knowledge that reduces risk in uncertain economic conditions.
Companies with cloud-centric infrastructures will be in a stronger position than those continuing to maintain their data storage on-premises. However, now mission critical data is also spread across remote workstations. It is, therefore, crucial to have a reliable overview over data creation, application, analysis and storage.
Heightened data security
Along with more dispersed and remote working practices comes a heightened risk to data security. Employees using personal devices and VPNs for business use, exposed to heightened levels of phishing attacks or unfamiliar with cloud-based applications and storage unwittingly create holes in security, as do access permissions that are not set with correct policies, controls and parameters.
Although working from home is becoming a requirement for many jobs, it exposes corporate and personal data in a significantly more vulnerable environment. With remote and flexible working clearly becoming part of the ‘new normal’, businesses must think about how to reshape and reinforce data security to protect employees’ home networks as part of their corporate infrastructure.
Many of the changes made in response to the global pandemic are likely to have been part of longer-term plan. However, Covid-19 changed the rules and created urgency. We certainly don’t know exactly what the post-pandemic business environment looks like. But we do know that good data management – as always – will be critical.