Free your data: 5 steps to data independence


Understand your power as a CIO and use it to effect change by prioritizing innovation.

IT—”information technology”— is at an inflection point. We are now defining leadership not by how well we manage the “technology” in IT but instead by how well we can harness the data and “information” to:

  • Deliver the perfect product because we know the customer and market better than anyone else
  • Design a production line that can monitor and correct itself, to stop defects before they start
  • Predict where the biggest financial risks are

Because innovation is now driven by data rather than process efficiency, CIOs need to live up to their titles and become chief information officers, rather than chief maintenance officers. An innovative CIO will find ways to harness more and more information in new and out-of-the-box ways. This can pave the way for the business to break away from the competition and become data-centric. (For real-world examples, check out Rick Smolan’s “The Human Face of Big Data” keynote from 2013’s Informatica World.)

In order to transform into a data-centric organization, you have to have data independence. In other words, you must control all your data and use it as needed in the context of people, applications, devices, and so on. It sounds basic, but it is quite rare given how much data is locked up in applications or trapped in users’ desktops and smartphones.

We have taken five steps to ensure data independence here at Informatica:

  1. Discovery. Survey and document your information landscape. Make sure you know where your data is, which of it is most important, where your risks are (of data breaches, e.g.), and so on.
  2. Sketch out the long-term architecture/roadmap (but design it for change). The roadmap should focus on information and data as the design point, rather than applications. Applications come and go, but your information must live on.
  3. Decouple. Your data may be locked into a database or application, but others may need access for broader enterprise usage. If so, start looking to rearchitect so you break the bonds of your data.
  4. Build the technology foundation. Begin investing in your information management layer so that you have a common approach to integrating and managing your data as it flows from people to applications to processes to devices.
  5. Build the organizational foundation. In parallel with the steps above, start assessing and upgrading employees’ skill sets. Build your information management organization so you have the people and process infrastructure to take you into the future.

These steps may not be revolutionary. It is less about the tasks as it is about a change in mindset. Design around data, rather than around particular technologies. When you design around data, you will set up your organization for long-term success.

This article is reprinted from Informatica’s Potential at Work for IT Leaders Community. Join now and get insights into harnessing data as a competitive advantage at your organization.