Dominate Data Management

 Imagine that you work at a company where you need to deliver a weekly report to your manager. But in order to create this report, you need to have access to a certain piece of data that is stored in one of your company’s various enterprise systems. However, because you don’t belong to the department that owns that particular system, you aren’t able to access the data yourself. 

Does this story sound all-too familiar? Unfortunately, many organizations have siloed data systems that are only accessible to stakeholders from a certain department, branch, or team. 

On the latest episode of The Connected Engineer – PTC’s podcast series for engineers, designers, and innovators – host, Gavin Quinlan, discusses data management with Research Analyst, Joe Mathias, and Senior Analyst, Anne Moxie, of Nucleus Research.

So what exactly is data management? Mathias outlined three of the key components: 

  1. Getting clean access to data. Making sure that the data is prepared in a way that is accessible through applications on your computer so a stakeholder from a different department can actually look at the data that they want
  2. The data is collected in one central location for a single source of truth – or one version of the data. Having multiple versions can cause problems for understanding the data.
  3. The data is convenient to access. Not only are you able to figure out what piece of data you want, but you can get to it quickly through an intuitive application interface.

For engineers, specifically, a strategic data management deployment can increase productivity. Says Moxie: “You’re able to access the documents and materials that you need much faster, and you know that it’s the correct documents as well. There’s less duplication. There’s less redundant data throughout the enterprise. You’re able to get trustworthy, clean data at the time that you need it.”

With the rise of smart, connected products, managing data has become even more complicated for organizations, Moxie explains. “There’s an increase in the complexity with the three V’s of data management: Volume – which is the amount of data that’s coming in; Variety of data – whether that’s structured or unstructured, perhaps coming from blogs, perhaps coming from mobile devices. It’s a lot of different data types coming in. And then also the Velocity of data – the speed at which it’s coming into an application or coming in from different data sources. That’s all increased exponentially in recent years because each person is generating more and more data. That means that data management solutions are a really important topic for any company with big data. As that increases, it’s just not possible to manually control all of it efficiently.” 

So what exactly are the biggest challenges standing in the way for organizations who want good data management? 

“Siloing is a huge issue,” admits Mathias. “When they start out, a small company is able to manage a lot of their information in something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. Maybe it’s a million lines, but when you have a relatively small company with only a few departments, it’s easy to keep one application holding all of the relevant data. But once you get a design team and a production team and a sales team and an executive team -- all growing and generating their own reports and data -- it doesn’t automatically share itself [cross-functionally]. It ends up that [the Excel spreadsheet] grows to become this beast that’s out of control… We’ve seen some deployments where they’re using, for example, a design application to track the product lifecycle – like a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. But the problem is that data isn’t being translated over into the department that’s handling the Bill of Materials. So you have almost a reduplication of the design team – who obviously has to deal with the materials that they’re using to build the product… Then you also have the buying team who has to deal with their own list. So really the goal for a company that has all these siloed data sections, is just to integrate them into one central application.”

“So the biggest challenge is definitely getting everyone on the same page within the company,” adds Mathias. “It’s going to have a ripple effect where – not only does it make it easier to look for data that you were looking for already – but that you’ll sort of find data that you didn’t know would be beneficial to you within your own department.”   

Listen to the full podcast here