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Data Confessions: The Worst-Kept Secrets of Enterprise Teams

Digital transformation initiatives are a top priority for many companies, but the challenges that come with implementing them remain at all levels. From non-production mishaps to business crippling security gaps, hear what’s keeping enterprise IT teams up at night.

“Every company is a data company.” It’s a mantra you’ve probably heard before, but the truth of it is only growing—particularly in light of Covid-19. The move to digital by companies across industries from retail to banking has made data an even stronger asset. 

Data anchors applications, and as businesses begin to digitize physical processes, leaders will need to rethink how they can increase data agility and flexibility during application development in order to react faster to customer demands, rapidly adjust to operational fluctuations, build AI-powered software, or drive smarter strategy in response to the market conditions.  

The impact of these data-driven practices are significant. One study found data-savvy businesses are 162% more likely to have surpassed revenue goals, compared to laggard counterparts.

But to date, most companies have yet to become truly data driven. Forrester Research found that while most companies plan to invest more in data technology, close to 50% of organizations still aren't using data to guide every business decision.

So what’s holding companies back? A Delphix survey of hundreds of individuals for their anonymous “data confessions” starts to unearth the answers. We found challenges and uncertainties around data at all levels of the organization: and without data to grease the wheels of these different processes, the increased pressure to speed operations and innovation can cause burnout at all levels of the organization.

CIO Confessions: “My Credibility Is Hinged on Digital Transformation”

While digital transformation initiatives are a high priority for most C-level executives, CIOs bear the brunt of the implementation burden. This responsibility is a departure from the traditional role of the CIO, which is centered on managing systems and infrastructure—and just one in five CIOs say they’ve cracked the code on digital initiatives.

In today’s digital world, technology is central to the mechanics of running a company and its ability to compete and survive. Digitally-savvy, forward-thinking CIOs are delivering continuous innovation by empowering their teams to use the cloud and new set of software development practices, including DevOps and DataOps, to deploy IT capabilities to customers and employees in a reliable, secure, and compliant way. 

“Any time you’re developing applications, data is your biggest opportunity and potentially your greatest challenge,” said Stuart Scott, CIO of J.B. Hunt. For some companies, data is powering incredible transformation and growth—but for those lacking it, a lack of data is holding them back at every level.

Confessions of a VP of AppDev: “Agile - For Us That’s Still Waterfall, But With Jira”

This need for data trickles down to create challenges for VPs of AppDev, responsible for maintaining rapid testing and development cycles to iteratively develop and deploy necessary applications. For data-driven companies, this speed and agility is possible thanks to the rise of agile and DevOps. 

But without the right data, agile methodologies can begin to look just like waterfall, but with Jira. That’s because in addition to DevOps, VPs of AppDev need DataOps: giving their teams the ability to manage data the same way they manage code. App quality is dependent on testing with production-like data. Dev teams need self-service access to this high-quality data, rather than having to interact with those managing and storing data every time they need an update.  

Confessions of an IT Director: “When They Say Innovation, I Think Disruption”

For devs to have this kind of access to data, however, it creates headaches for IT Directors. The issues are across three key areas: the cybersecurity risks raised by decentralized projects, the need to increase efficiency due to the data demands of non-production environments, and the reduced time to test to ensure new apps are production-ready. 

Digital initiatives like cloud migrations or new application development all require data. But during and between projects, data sprawl and redundancies can crop up. In fact at some companies, up to 90 percent of the data across these environments is the same data. It creates storage cost and adds security risk. While there are tools to allow devs to manage and automatically provision data securely via self-service, some IT Directors opt for the path of least resistance: restricting access to data. When teams can’t easily share data, they end up with silos. When changes are made within a silo, entire systems break. 

Confessions of a Tester: “I Hoard Test Environments—Only I Know Where They Are”

When access to data is restricted, testers often take matters into their own hands. Squirreling away multiple test environments makes it easier to get everything back to its previous state for another test run. Rather than refresh the system with new data, testers often hoard old environments for every testing occasion to meet compressed timelines. 

But these stockpiles of redundant test environments—think: 10X data duplication in some cases—eats into storage budgets and increases the risk of a security breach. What’s more, the old data in these testing environments can compromise the testing quality altogether. 

Self-service capabilities let testers instantly access data and manipulate multiple data copies at will for software test environments. Techniques like data masking and data virtualization can allow testing teams to refresh data faster, cut storage costs, and manage data environments more efficiently and securely. 

Confessions of a Developer: “I Know Everyone’s Salary”

When QA teams don’t have access to good data for testing, neither do the developers. They’re likewise under pressure to test, develop, and deliver apps faster, but often, they’re left using low-quality or partial datasets. In some cases, they’re taking shortcuts to get the data they need.

DevOps was born out of a need for teams to better collaborate and manage the development and delivery of applications, and like code, data is always changing. When users can’t access the right version of data for the task at hand, they turn to poor quality data that result in increased exposure to risk, failure to scale, and slow time-to-market.  A data platform, like Delphix, gives access to lightweight, read/write data environments that package together virtual, masked data copies—synchronized from multiple sources—to drive fast and high-quality application development. 

The Digital Transformation Machine Needs Data Fuel

At every level, therefore, a lack of good data is holding companies back. For developers to test and iterate, they need fast, quality, and secure data—as do testers for good QA, the IT Director for driving efficiency and security, and the VP of AppDev to keep larger project timelines moving. Ultimately, eliminating friction at every level of data use across the organization will accelerate initiatives at all levels to power the business’ digital transformation efforts.

Looking for more ways to combat these common data challenges within your enterprise? Register for The Data Company Conference and join virtually on June 25, 2020.

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