Data has added value only if we know how to fully use it

Bor Novak, key advisor for data management in the Adriatic region for the company SAS, explained that data in a business environment is worth something only to the extent of the useful information it provides. However, companies face a new challenge – how to provide quality data management.

Originally published in Monitor magazine, on January 2017 

How would you describe the broad scope of data management to someone who knows nothing about it?

We live in a digital age where data is generated virtually at every step. Data is only a digital record of an event that has occurred. We have always collected data, based on which we try to make theories. There are cases when the data-based theory revealed a possible potential of the existence of new data, which we became aware of only when we had developed the theory, e.g. the Periodic Table system of chemical elements. The main difference between the past and the present is in the amount and speed of data. As regards data management, companies need to solve several challenges – the first being where the data will be recorded. When the data is recorded / stored, it should be protected; it should also be determined who can access it and how. Before it is processed by business analysts, a proper data quality should be ensured, and last but not least, the data should be published in a format that is fully understood by the business user. At the end of the day, the data has added value only if we know how to fully use it.

Data monetisation is also of utmost importance, but unfortunately, it has been neglected

How important is data management? Why should companies consider data management?

In 2016, data management is required. Today most companies impose record-keeping, which will further be supported by the EU General Personal Data Protection Regulation, which will apply from 25 May 2018. Legislative requirements are followed by the operational data level, which enables the company to operate normally and is therefore necessary for every company. Data monetisation is also of utmost importance, but unfortunately, it has been neglected, in comparison with the first two, as companies often take no interest in it.

What are the advantages for companies with established data management strategy?

A prepared data management strategy does not constitute an advantage by itself. Too often, we tend to forget that the strategy itself is not enough to succeed; we should actually change the mind-set so that people change their old habits and adopt new ones. Modern companies already have the position of Data Management Manager, who is directly responsible for the implementation of the data management strategy. We should point out that this is a never ending project, as we should continually monitor what is happening to the data and take appropriate action.

How can SAS help companies in data management?

SAS has a fairly different philosophy from others when working with data. The first difference is that we do not favour any data storing system. SAS is universal and, in substance, conceived to work with different database systems in exactly the same way. An additional SAS Data Integration tool enables the processing of data in the database or SAS business applications. Last year we localised SAS Data Quality tools, which means that we are the first on the Slovenian market enabling companies to verify Slovenian data. This is provided by means of syntactical rules and the “DQ” Slovenian database, with which we establish the adequacy of the data recorded in companies’ databases. The indicated tool is of utmost importance in the implementation of the requirements of the General Personal Data Protection Regulation – a typical company has up to 500 different databases and applications, for which it needs to be determined, whether they contain personal data, and how data is used. Our tool can carry out the majority of the task automatically. Furthermore, in business environments, SAS provides management and control of data with solutions in the areas of Master Data Management and Data Governance. We help companies to achieve the desired result with both the knowledge and software. In the following year, we will add an extremely powerful platform, SAS Viya, to our offer, which will allow the use of our solutions by means of other modular systems (Python, LUA, REST API, etc.).

A correct visualisation itself is very important, no less than the mere finding, since people need to properly understand the information collected from the data.

Is it advisable that companies hire data scientists and what is their role in data management?

At this point, we would prefer to turn things upside down. A data scientist is a person who must possess interdisciplinary knowledge of mathematics, databases, business, communication, and visualisation. We can soon discover that there are virtually no such persons on the labour market. It is important to employ data scientists; however, this is only the beginning. Usually, data scientists do not cover the full spectrum of the required knowledge; therefore, we must enable them to develop the essential knowledge. Technology that allows them access to data practically without IT knowledge can surely help. Their role in data management is to provide mathematical models for working with data based on data and business analytics, and thus, enable the company an insight into the history, and to predict what will be the future of the operation. Furthermore, they must be able to hand over this data to sales and marketing, which should then appropriately react in the market. Therefore, a correct visualisation itself is very important, no less than the mere finding, since people need to properly understand the information collected from the data.

Bor Novak

Bor has been working for SAS from 2004. In his years of experience he has been involved in numerous data integration, data quality, Big data, IT architecture and DWH projects in the Adriatic region. His current interest is revolving around Big Data topics - like Hadoop, Data Quality in Hadoop and Data management for Big Data. His current position is Data Management Expert Consultant that is working with clients to create vision and consult them to design a solution that meets their needs. He strongly believes that Big data reality is already here and with it came a new Digital era in which the most important thing is how fast and how reliable you can capitalize your data. Bor was a student of University for computer science in Ljubljana.

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