AVOIDING THE BRICK WALL: HOW TO BUILD YOUR DATA ARCHITECTURE RIGHT FIRST TIME

The phrase “data is the new oil” has become commonplace in business over the last few years and – unsurprisingly – many data service providers have successfully tapped the market. Yet, as in any sector, there is huge variance in the quality of the product provided. Given data analysis has become indispensable in everything from retail stock optimisation to measuring the efficacy of NGO projects, many organisations have opted for run-of-the-mill data solutions that offer a temptingly quick-fix approach.

Over time, though, these clients find that querying their increasing amounts of data begins to take an age; page load speed crawls along; time-wasting system glitches lead to expensive system crashes. It becomes apparent that the client’s fallen for the age-old style over substance trap. But now, their quick-fix data system’s shiny front-end presentation can no longer mask its inadequate back-end capabilities.

This is the brick wall moment. So, how did the client get into this mess? And, more importantly, how can we avoid hitting the data management brick wall?

 

Focus on scalability, not short-term solutions

It begins with your data management system springing a few leaks, which initially seem straightforward to plug. But, before you know it, you’re sinking. Sub-par providers focus on selling clients data solutions that can manage their data inputs as they stand, regardless of the client’s predicted data management requirements.

Now, most basic data systems could be scaled, up to a point. A copy-paste approach, changing a few lines of script each time, might keep pace with the client’s rapidly expanding data requirements for a while. That is, until what started as a few lines of changed script between versions 1 and 5 becomes a gaping, unpluggable gap between versions 1 and 85.

Hidden within this unpluggable gap are the priceless insights you could be gaining from your data. As data science entrepreneur Clive Humby once put it, data is “valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to… be broken down, analysed for it to have value.” Without the right system to process, query and store it, your data assets are worthless.

At this point, continuing to invest in the same system is simply throwing money away. Doubling your spending won’t even come close to doubling performance. You’ve reached the brick wall, so your only option is to redesign and redevelop from scratch. That’s an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, it will give your competitors the ideal opportunity to dominate the market while you’re stuck back at system development basics. Quite frankly, that’s a gift no business should ever have to give.

 

Substance with style: what if you didn’t have to choose?

No matter how aesthetic and user-friendly, a designer front end for your data system can’t make up for shaky back-end fundamentals. The solution? Ensure you’re working with data experts with the knowledge to take you all the way from the underlying data architecture to flexible and adaptable optimisation over the years to come.

This of course applies to companies adopting data solutions for the very first time, but it’s not too late for those that have already hit the brick wall, either. Many established companies aiming to ride the first waves of digitalisation actually adopted systems that soon became outdated, opening a chasm between their perceived and actual usefulness. According to recent cross-industry studies cited by Harvard Business Review, under 50% of organisations’ structured data actively influences the decisions they make, while less than 1% of their unstructured data is ever analysed or put to use. What’s more, 80% of the data analysts surveyed spent their time merely locating and preparing data, rather than actually using it for any innovative, progress-driving purposes.

The legacy systems that allow this to be the case are, therefore, ultimately useless. So are systems devised by architects who don’t possess the detailed Cloud knowledge needed to craft a data management system that’s fast, flexible and forward-thinking (read: stylish), while simultaneously secure and scalable (read: substantial).

The key is choosing to work with a technology partner whose product and ethos don’t require you to choose between substance and style. Nucleoo – Bi4’s customisable suite of data-driven solutions and services – provides a nimble and flexible solution to storing and harnessing the potential of big data, leaving those legacy systems safely in the past. You retain access to your fundamental business logic, while Nucleoo takes care of the rest. As for the brick wall… what brick wall?

Written by
Arnoud Krom
CEO Bi4 Group