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The Agile Business – Why Data Virtualization Is Needed

In the struggle for survival, new approaches to data integration are required

"In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment."

This quote from Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 captures the essence of every organization's need to continuously adapt in response to a complex and dynamic business environment. To survive and be competitive, the organization must be adaptable.

And adaptability requires the agility to quickly take advantage of new or changing business opportunities.

Business agility is the most important overall success factor for every enterprise today.

Information and the Pursuit of Business Agility
While the importance of business agility is well understood, achieving it is a difficult and ongoing challenge.

The key to success is information. Armed with the right information, business decision makers can better evaluate their environment and decide how to adapt it for future success.

Providing this information and the supporting infrastructure that delivers it to business decision makers is the responsibility of information technology (IT) organizations.

In the quest to become an agile business, business and IT leaders must address all three elements of business agility:  business decision agility, time-to-solution agility and resource agility.

Business Decision Agility
What happened in the past? What is happening now? What is going to happen in the future?

Business leaders need the answers to these questions in order to identify and execute the ongoing business changes required for long-term success. This knowledge and insight can only be derived from complete, high-quality and actionable information.

Without this information, business leaders must fly blind.

Time-to-Solution Agility
When the business seeks to enter a new market, launch a new offering, implement a new business process or radically shift an existing one, IT must quickly develop and deliver the tools and information necessary to support the analysis and decision-making process as well as provide any IT-based solutions that the new initiative may require.

Failure to do so in a timely manner delays success, opening the door for competitors to capitalize on new opportunities instead. Thus, rapid time to solution is critical to achieving business agility.

Resource Agility
In many enterprises, IT operations are one of the largest ongoing resource expenses and IT infrastructure is one of the largest capital expenditures. Whether the financial strategy is "more from more," "more from the same" or "more from less," maximizing the business impact of and return on these significant IT investments is crucial or long-term survival.

Achieving the "same from the same" or worse, "less from the same," are not valid options in today's fast-changing business and IT environment.

CEOs and CIOs Agree
When it comes to the importance of information as an enabler for business agility, CEOs and CIOs agree.

According to IBM's 2011 global CIO study, based on face-to-face conversations with over 3,000 CEOs and CIOs, the number one priority for the next three to five years is the ability to derive insight from the huge volumes of data being amassed across the enterprise, and to turn those insights into competitive advantage with tangible business benefits.

Information Technology Challenges Abound
However, effectively leveraging information assets to achieve business agility is complicated by the fact that the volume of information is expanding at unprecedented rates. An IDC research study recently found that, in 2010, the universe of information exceeded one zettabyte, or one trillion gigabytes, for the first time in history, and is expected to grow another nine-fold over the next five years.

These massive volumes are inexorably intertwined with the multiple generations of information technology that organizations have adopted over the years - mainframe, client-server, Internet and cloud. Simply maintaining this complex technology infrastructure, even at status quo service levels, strains most IT organizations today. This leaves IT with little opportunity and few resources to optimize this complex infrastructure for business advantage.

Given this landscape, does it make sense to believe that traditional data management and data integration approaches with their long lead times and seemingly endless backlogs can meet these demands?

With more agile approaches such as data virtualization available, now is the time to take advantage.

Is Data Virtualization the Answer?
Data Virtualization is recognized by analysts, media and innovative organizations as an important part of the answer, making it a must have addition to the traditional data integration toolkit along with data replication, data consolidation, and more.

In fact, in the recently published book I co-authored with Judith R. Davis, Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility, we profile ten enterprises that have added data virtualization to their IT infrastructure and are gaining significant business decision agility, time-to-solution agility and resource agility benefits as they address their business agility challenges.

Take time to solution for example.  One firm, Northern Trust, which provides outsourced back office services to other financial institutions, improved time to onboard new institutional clients by 50%, thereby accelerating revenue and improving client satisfaction.  A Fortune 50 Financial Services Firm was able to combine reporting across merged organizations in just a few months, as opposed to the years a physical consolidation of the merged systems would have taken.

Resource agility benefits from data virtualization are also significant. For example, Qualcomm, one of the most agile businesses in the world, estimated savings of $2.2 million in development costs across its first five data virtualization projects.  And the NYSE Euronext saved $4.5 million annually by using data virtualization on project alone.

Make Your Business Case
If your organization is new to data virtualization, there are many real-world examples to guide you on how your enterprise can move beyond traditional data integration and use data virtualization to improve your business agility.  Use these to make your case for change.

If your organization is already adopting data virtualization, now is the time to accelerate and expand your adoption, compound your business agility gains and achieve additional business and IT benefits from data virtualization.

Your competition isn't resting.  Neither can you.

More Stories By Robert Eve

Robert Eve is the EVP of Marketing at Composite Software, the data virtualization gold standard and co-author of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility. Bob's experience includes executive level roles at leading enterprise software companies such as Mercury Interactive, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. Bob holds a Masters of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

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