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A data sugar rush is giving digital leaders a “data metabolism” challenge 

Data, says Mohammed ‘Khal’ Khalid, “behaves a bit like sugar.” It’s an unusual simile, but the DXC Technology advisory director says his team’s conversations with Chief Information Officers and Chief Data Officers show that organisations are “experiencing a crisis in decision making exacerbated by an inability to metabolise data.”

This inability to serve up the right data and insights at the right time and speed is, in part – the Gartner veteran suggests in conversation with The Stack – because digital leaders have been sold a data sugar-rush over the years that leaves decision makers unable to turn cravings for ever-more data into meaningful energy.

Like sugar, data can either be used to power an organisation’s activities near-term, or stored for future use. But much as excessive sugar consumption can have unhealthy consequences without the body deploying it purposefully,, Khal – who is Global Advisory Director for DXC Leading Edge, the technology company’s research and advisory unit –  adds, saying: “We see large amounts of money invested into data management efforts that don’t generate ROI.”

In a DXC Technology research paper, “How to supercharge your data metabolism”, Khal postulates that the value of data and the insights gained from it follow a tripartite life cycle of discover, develop, and defend.

These, says DXC Technology, have very different “metabolic” requirements.

The first state, “discover” is focused on identifying new properties or engaging new methods to help users evolve and advance.

The second, “develop” is a state of tension between the often opposing forces of “discover” and “defend” – with the latter seeing stakeholders like compliance emphasise a focus on protecting existing data resources.

“These decision states can be optimised by either serving up and accruing data, or ditching it, at the right time” he suggests, with the ability to do this successfully hinging on “understanding the data metabolic rate.”

DXC Technology’s researchers say that they also “identified a wide range of symptoms that organisations with unhealthy data metabolism suffer”. Common examples include running multiple competing initiatives around master data management (MDM), in an effort to get data under control, or business leaders investing in large-scale data ingestion without similar investment in the rest of their organisational data cycles.

Fragmented ownership across multiple roles like Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Analytics Officer can also be a warning sign, particularly as decision makers come to the table with different metabolisms.

As for treatment, organisations should focus “less on cures such as data lakes, blockchains and faster reporting tools, and more on changed behaviours that will lead to better decision-making outcomes” says Khal.

DXC Technology and The Stack will be exploring data metabolism and cross-organisational ingestion challenges in the public sector at an invitation-only private dinner taking place in London on the evening of April 25.

To register your interest in learning more, contact The Stack’s founder Ed Targett.

To learn more about DXC Leading Edge and data metabolism, see the paper here.