Everyone understands the importance of data.
Some of the largest and most profitable companies are ones that focus on data-driven business models. By collecting and analyzing data about their customers, they can provide a better service. There has been a revolution in how we see the customer; successful companies are now customer-centric, barriers to entry for many business verticals have reduced, and if you aren’t serving the customer in the way they like, another company will pop up that does.
What is the next revolution, you may ask.
Corporate responsibility and ESG is at the top of many agendas as we try to be people – and planet – positive. Our approach to our fellow humans and our planet has changed over the generations, and now we try to live more positive and sustainable lives. Companies, however, still view ESG work as a cost. Data is still collected manually and educated guesses on our impact are made and reported to the government. But what if we could save money, increase value, and meet our responsibilities?
As with any decision-making or reporting, having data available to support those needs is key. Most companies have what they need to support ESG, however, without easy access to that data, they rely on data from the government and third parties. Within most companies, the same problem of siloed and hard-to-reach data applies. So how do we fix those issues? A great approach to problem solving is making sure you have the right tools so you can be agile and see that the data for one solution may benefit more than one problem.
Data Mesh may be the answer, it is a framework for sharing data within an organization. It describes how you will ensure security, availability, and quality, amongst other things. The underlying concept is that teams or systems who create data are also responsible for publishing the same data, so it can be used for other solutions and provide other value. On top of providing the framework for data use, Data Mesh also suggests that data should be decentralized. This is cheaper to maintain and much faster to implement change, as solution teams can control the data solution rather than relying on a centralized team to manage a huge, costly, and complex data system. This allows companies to focus resources on solving the business problem rather than running technology. This seems like a great way to help a business become agile and meet their business goals, but how does it help with ESG?
Once you have taken all the data that you produce and made it available to others, you can start to combine that data or automate manual tasks. The company’s governance responsibilities become easier, and reports can be automated instead of produced manually from disparate systems. This allows more time to be dedicated to the running of the business and decision-making – the work that makes the company profitable. Who wouldn’t want to make the company run smoother while concentrating on the work that makes money? But how does this help with the social aspects of our responsibilities?
Working for a company that treats others fairly and truly shows they care is a huge draw for talent these days. To ensure you are doing business responsibly, for example, by using socially responsible sourcing of products and materials, would be possible to automate once you have access to the data needed. You would be able to see your impact on society. Closer to home, you would have a better understanding of your employees’ situations.
These can be important things to consider for staff retention. Once you have access to the relevant data this can easily become clear, and it’s not expensive to analyze. In fact, getting this right can save you money. Having the data to support sustainability decisions means you can drive cost savings and additional revenue while being more planet positive. A small saving in supply chain logistics is beneficial for both the environment and the bottom line. This is not paying lip service to sustainability – it’s doing something about it. It should also be one of the main considerations for cloud migration. When building your own data center, you need to have enough resources for peak use, which may be one or two days a year if you’re a retailer. You have underutilized equipment, which is using power and is made of plastics. Moving to the cloud would mean sharing those resources, using less power, and buying less plastic, but the processing power is still there when needed. If every company that could, switched to shared infrastructure like the public cloud, we could save huge amounts of energy and be more sustainable in manufacturing resources.
These are just a few examples of how the right data strategy can support not only your existing business, but also be more sustainable and have a positive impact on society.