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Within each business there are many people who possess the knowledge of how data needs to be used for business processes and particularly for how the right data can improve business agility, revenue growth and help meet customer expectations. Such employees are invaluable for examining business data: first, to determine its value in context, and second, to understand how it contributes to intelligence being gathered for the organization. The need to analyze data is at the foundation of every effective data management strategy, whether the analysis is handled from the business perspective or the technology side of the equation.
To connect savvy business people to the data they need requires the right technology tools. One tool that is still not easily made available to business users is data profiling. Data profiling is the process of analyzing data to determine things like its structure and meaning. Users set up a variety of methods and processes to reveal patterns of data usage, metadata matches, value completeness, degree of data quality, and so on.
Unfortunately data profiling has primarily been a tool for IT and data management teams working with data repositories and the systems that produce and consume data. But data profiling should be an important tool for business users to gain full value from data assets. Aided by data profiling, business users can quickly identify inconsistencies and problems in the data, before it is used for intelligence and decision-making purposes. They can also continuously learn more about different data sets to understand how such data fits business needs. Until data is understood in relation to various systems and processes, it's not possible to fully and reliably use the right data for the business.
Here's where managed technology services can put an interesting spin on connecting business users to tools like data profiling that have mostly been the domain of IT teams. Providers can package business user access into managed services for data management, to open up easy usage of data profiling for business purposes. In addition, providers that bring a specific industry focus for such managed services create even greater value for the business.
For example, there are services firms that consult with corporate legal departments and offer managed services packages that blend data management expertise with legal and regulatory expertise. Such managed services include pre-built data profiling services for areas such as risk management and eDiscovery for litigation and compliance. Many organizations are overwhelmed by the complexity and volumes of data that must be monitored and assessed, particularly in light of the challenges of meeting compliance and eDiscovery deadlines. Managed services, backed by industry expertise, can provide a sustainable and scalable solution while reducing the demand on internal resources.
But these firms usually provide these services only for IT and data management teams. Such managed services could and should include expanded data profiling packages tailored for business users who are less technical but are business data savvy. Data profiling processes are almost always recurring, to support continuous efforts to gain more value from data and to ensure that data quality is reliable; as such, managed services have a 'natural' fit with the creation of tailored data management services for business users.
This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic visit IBM's Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of many business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitiveand on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective