Blog Post

End-to-End Data Provides Context for Digital Success

November 7, 2016 Author: Jason Bloomberg - President, Intellyx

The central challenge to digital transformation is breaking down silos. However, the silo metaphor can have different meanings: siloed organizations. Siloed technology. And siloed data.

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In fact, we have long recognized the correlation between siloed organizational structures and the technology that serves them. 

In a 1968 paper, computer scientist Melvin Conway wrote, “Any organization that designs a system will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.”

We now call this statement Conway’s Law, although it is more of an observation than a law – and in the half century since Conway made his eponymous proclamation, we’ve been able to observe many corollaries to this erstwhile law.

As a software developer, Conway was observing that siloed development teams build siloed software systems. The reverse also holds: siloed software systems reinforce organizational silos.

Furthermore, extending Conway’s Law to the data in the organization also follows, since data end up aligning with the systems that store, process, and analyze them.

The end result: people in different parts of the organization access and understand fractions of all the information available to the enterprise as a whole – and furthermore, siloed technology systems reinforce this division of data.

Over the years, this data fragmentation has become routine, and people don’t even realize that they may be making critical business decisions without all the information.

In reality, people often deal with perhaps less than 10% of the relevant information that would otherwise be available to them.

Such institutional ‘head in the sand’ thinking not only leads to poor decisions, but as some organizations make progress solving this problem, the ones that remain are increasingly at a competitive disadvantage.

Solving Siloed Data: Conway in Reverse

The underlying causal patterns that lead to the observations inherent in Conway’s Law and its corollaries go both ways: organizations can implement end-to-end technology systems in order to break down their organizational silos.

We can extend this reverse Conway principle to data as well, as end-to-end technology encourages and reinforces comprehensive visibility into data. That visibility, in turn, supports the organization’s efforts to break down its organizational silos.

On the one hand, our reverse Conway maneuver raises the bar on digital transformation, as enterprises must transform their organizations, technology, and data concurrently – a difficult challenge for any company.

But on the other hand, it also gives transforming organizations a path forward. For example, the rise of a plethora of ‘infrastructure as code’ tools and technologies have made the organizational and cultural shift we call DevOps possible.

The various automation technologies that DevOps shops assemble into toolchains that support the full software lifecycle would not lead to successful initiatives, however, if those tools didn’t work well together.

In fact, the combination of open source technology (leading to a common, best practice-driven code base) along with RESTful APIs and standard data formats have been essential for supporting interoperability across toolchains.

The same openness applies to data as well. In the older, siloed data context, each department uses its own tools and accesses its own sliver of data – and thus the tools need not interoperate with those of other departments, and the data typically have their own formats.

But in the modern, digital world, customer-driven, horizontal organizations require end-to-end technology that leverages open source, open APIs, and open data formats. The data in turn must comply with an end-to-end set of standards to support this broader vision of the digitally transformed enterprise.

The Intellyx Take

If you’re a business executive struggling with your organization’s digital transformation, and someone asked you about your event data, you may look at them with a perplexed look and wonder what event data has to do with transforming your business to better serve your customers.

Such reasoning, however, follows the ‘head in the sand’ siloed thinking that digital efforts require us to change – even for event data, including log messages, web requests, ad impressions, user clicks, and system diagnostics, to name a few.

In reality, this ‘data exhaust’ coming off of your applications, infrastructure, and network contains pearls of wisdom essential for meeting the strategic goals of your digital efforts.

Without the proper context, however, such wisdom will be lost. Data without context, after all, are little more than so many zeroes and ones. This context, in fact, is where tools like Rocana’s provide the most value.

To pull our heads out of the sand and gain the necessary end-to-end visibility into the data lifeblood of our organization, everybody who touches those data must understand their broader context.

In the digitally transformed organization, therefore, all individuals can use tools like Rocana to access, leverage, and gain critical insights from all the information at their disposal – not just the fragment of the data they were used to. Digital success hangs in the balance.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Rocana is an Intellyx client. At the time of writing, none of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx clients. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.