Article written by:
Steve Boston, CPA, CISA
Assurance & Information Technology
Services Senior Manager
Decades ago, we could run our businesses with paper, pencil and direct person-to-person communication: you know, talking to each other. The technology era brought computers into business and started as a way of speeding up what was performed previously as manual calculations. Uses for computers continued to evolve to short-term and long-term storage and now have reached the level of automating our everyday tasks with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Who ever imagined we’d be using computers to turn our lights on for us and lock our doors at night?
All this technology dependency is driven by the collection of data, both private and public. Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices in homes and business, smartphones and computers, web browsers and mobile apps, and of course, your company’s business systems collect data in order to improve your user experience and provide value to you. That’s why we have them – so many of them. In fact, studies have shown that in just the last two years, we have generated 90% of the data that exists in the world. Think about that. The current pace of generating and storing data is insane, estimated at 33 zettabytes this year (that is 33 trillion gigabytes)!
Data’s potential value is unlocked only when we can properly leverage it to drive decision making. Companies should be asking themselves: Are we making the most of our data? Do we have a good handle on what we’re collecting, or should we be collecting data in order to make the best management decisions in our business every day? If you are unsure of those answers, let’s use the following questions as a starting point:
What do you have?
You cannot properly leverage your data, if you are not sure what you have, how relevant it is or the quality of it. You need to first take stock in what you are collecting from each system, where that data is stored and how you can get to it. The objective is to prepare a comprehensive data asset inventory, which will not only help you on your journey to using your data better, but is also essential to effective information technology governance and cybersecurity.
What else do you need?
What questions are you trying to answer, or do you find yourself wishing you could answer quicker? Now that you have a full list of what data you have, you should engage in some creative brainstorming to think about what other data might be helpful in driving decision making. Maybe it’s a feed of third-party data on industry and competitor trends. Maybe it’s integrating EDI with a supplier or customer to facilitate more real-time operational decision making.
How do/can you use it?
If your data is in multiple places and systems, you may need a solution that will bring it all together to make use of it. If your ERP system has crummy reporting, maybe a separate business intelligence system to automate reporting and visualization of your newly collected data will help. Or maybe automating a few analyses or reconciliations outside the system on a monthly or quarterly basis will be the improvement you’re looking for that frees up resources for more strategic projects.
How do you secure it?
No conversation about business data should end without considering how that data is being secured. Where is it being stored: on your own systems behind your managed lock and key, on third-party hosted systems or somewhere in the nebulous cloud (read: Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure)? What kind of data is it: public data, confidential proprietary business data, financial data, employee data, protected health information (PHI), credit card or payment card (PCI) data? All of these have different implications for how you should be storing and managing the data, as well as other potential regulatory requirements.
The good news is that GBQ can help. GBQ IT Services is a team of builders, breakers, operators and auditors who work with clients to build, secure, measure and assure value. Our team provides data analytics services that assist clients to better use their data to make strategic decisions, including data consolidation and visualization, fraud prevention and detection, data analysis in litigation and process automation technologies to automate repetitive human tasks.
To learn more about using your data to drive better decision making in your business, save the date to join us for Part 2 of our 2019 CyberTrends webinar series, taking place Wednesday, July 17, from 12:00 – 12:30 PM.