Engineered data maps out your business' future

Collecting data provides little value if it is not engineered into insight that can allow business navigation.


A map provides an individual or an organisation with a visualisation of the route they will take. Underneath every map, whether a GPS map on a smartphone or vehicle dashboard or even an old-fashioned paper map, is a wealth of engineering. Consider, for one moment, the depth of detail on a map, from topographical definitions, the shape and position of buildings, forests, the course of a river, and the location of infrastructure ranging from roads, power lines, and railways. To bring all of this information together into a usable outcome that has an excellent user experience, accuracy, and delivers people or goods to a place safely requires a major level of data engineering.

In today's enterprise, the complex ecosystem of suppliers that are necessary to meet the high demands of a customer, their changing behaviour patterns, and the speed of commerce all require an organisation to have an ability to look at the landscape it operates within. By looking across the environment, an organisation can understand where it stands and what direction the business is heading. Data engineering allows organisations to map out that journey.

Without an engineered data set, organisations will not be able to produce a map that has the detail to safely navigate the business forwards. It is akin to a map with no key. Engineering data will allow the organisation to understand whether a line refers to topology, national border or railway. Or in business terms, whether a number is P or L.

Mapping, data and engineering have a long and closely entwined history. In the early 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution, canal-building became a boom sector in the UK to rival today's investments in Fintech. To successfully dig the canals that would connect the mines with the industrial heartlands in London, Glasgow or Birmingham, a geologist, William Smith, used the data he had collected to create a geological map of the UK (it still hangs in Burlington House, London and is well worth seeing). Smith's map is the insight that would be the data point from which canal makers and the industries of the revolution would follow.

The map that Smith created for these business leaders detailed the best routes and where mineral deposits would be. Smith engineered data into insight, which led to yet further engineering.

Today, data collection is considered one of the top three skills cartographers must exhibit. The modern enterprise is no different, many organisations are collecting data, but they lack the ability to engineer that data into a map that can help the organisation navigate its vertical market or potential disruptions to their marketplace.

In recent years, the ability to collect and store data has become easier and less costly thanks to enterprise cloud computing. However, collecting the data is not always unlocking actionable insight. A physical map does not, for example, detail how many trees are in a woodland. That would be excessive levels of data; instead, a forest shape as a landmass is depicted. Colour and symbols inform the map user that this is a woodland, which instantly provides the user with insight into the type and size of obstacle they face. Therefore, the map user is able to make better-informed decisions and navigate a course through or around the forest.

CIOs, therefore, need to ensure their teams and the business have a good data engineering foundation. This will provide an ability to map its business journey - or the customer journey when transacting with your organisation.

With insight as to the size and make up of an obstacle the organisation faces, the business is able to respond, often in real-time, to changes in customer behaviour or regulatory demands. CIO's with a well-defined data engineering basis to their operations were able to respond to the pandemic lockdowns with greater effectiveness than those with data, but little insight. Armed with an engineered data set and strategy, organisations are able to understand the behaviour of the business and, therefore, model changes to that behaviour when faced with challenges such as a demand for remote working.

Engineering the data in an organisation breaks down silos and therefore prevents one team from having an insight that colleagues in a different department or market cannot access. With an engineered data set, organisations are able to easily identify where the opportunities for improvements in efficiency, productivity and profitability are. Data engineering benefits the entire organisation; the most successful organisations engineer the data and then democratise that data to the entire business. If everyone in the business has access to the same map, then they can use that to visualise their journey and see where bottlenecks and customer pain points exist. The map then allows these front line team members to work with colleagues and the senior leadership team to describe and rectify this challenge. The ultimate beneficiary is the customer, which of course, benefits the organisation.

So, the next time you punch a postcode into your satellite navigation system or check the location of a nearby restaurant online, consider the data and engineering underneath that map and then ask - can we as an organisation make our data visible and usable to this level?