Several years ago, I led Dell’s strategy team that started looking at the software industry to find areas where new approaches to old problems would yield very promising results for customers. During that review, Information management stood out as an area where there was a lot of disruption and ever-increasing challenges. Customers were struggling to keep pace with constant business changes, which generated more and new types of data and caused a proliferation of separate, standalone tools and platforms.
As a result, this market segment has become so complex that extracting meaningful insight from disparate data sources locked up in separate silos is painful, ineffective and costly. What customers really want is a fresh, modern approach that unleashes them from complicated legacy technologies and empowers benefits from new, agile information management solutions. Our timing couldn’t have been better.
At Dell, a hallmark of our approach always has been to seek areas where we can reduce cost and complexity to increase efficiencies. In an essay in The New York Times last fall, Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christensen addressed the three types of innovations that fuel growth: empowering, sustaining and efficiency. He cited Dell in the latter category for making the PC industry more efficient by lowering the cost of producing and distributing products.
Now, as GM of Dell Software’s Information Management business, I’m on a new team applying that same thinking to fix the broken state of information management. Our goal: to make it much easier for companies to access, consume, manage, integrate, provision, analyze and share information to drive greater business value. This is no small feat as organizations have changed dramatically since a decade ago when getting to corporate data was much simpler.
Back then, data resided in individual databases, CRM and ERP apps, and datamarts. To create a cohesive view of the business, companies typically deployed a single, large data warehouse. Now, however, it’s increasingly difficult to codify all the different data types sprawled across separate applications on different vendor platforms both on-premises and in the cloud. Add in social data in the form of Twitter and Facebook and the challenge of getting a cohesive view becomes more complicated.
Today it takes an army of technical experts with different domain expertise and specialized tools to get to the data in order to produce actionable insight and measurable business results. Most recently, I spoke to Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, about this dilemma. During our conversation, we discussed how the way we use and manage data has changed dramatically over the years.
Companies today want to know what real-time business benefits they can glean, such as identifying and targeting new customer segments, testing new lines of business or gaining immediate results on a marketing campaign. Dana calls this immediacy of feedback concept as it’s applied across various aspects of the business—planning, production, marketing, sales, research—the Holy Grail of business. It’s extremely difficult to attain.
That’s where Dell Software comes in. We’re defining a new set of vendor- and data-agnostic tools to help companies derive better business outcomes, increase revenue and widen their competitive edge. Our goal is to remove the roadblocks preventing companies from gaining more intelligence, not just about their business—but also their customers and their behaviors—in order to make more intelligent business decisions.
To do that, we extract the complexity from all the underlying data sources—meaning we don’t care what type of data it is (structured, unstructured, semi-structured), which vendor environment it lives in (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, legacy BI systems, Hadoop, data warehouses, etc.) or where it resides (on-prem or the cloud). Consider how it would simplify the scope of information management if you had a single tool chain that understood and codified every database and data structure as well as any vendor changes or nuances between platforms.
Our unique approach provides an end-to-end, agnostic tool chain that spans the entire information lifecycle. We believe at every point where customers can use an agnostic tool to take complexity out of their environment, they have an opportunity to learn something new or do something to improve their business that hasn’t been possible or easy to do previously. They also have an opportunity to reduce IT costs, increase ROI and capture new revenue streams.
With these tools, we can fix the broken state of information management and liberate business-critical data that’s been trapped in isolated silos. We also can further close the gap between IT and business by helping both groups find common ground. Additionally, we can lower barriers so that modern information management and business intelligence solutions are more accessible to companies of all sizes, especially those in the midmarket where traditional tools have been out of reach.
Big changes start with small steps. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll share more insights into our new directions and reveal how our customers are using Dell’s agnostic tool chain to better manage, integrate and inform their business. Drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @matthewwolken to share the steps you plan to take. Also, join Dell Software next week live from San Francisco at our "The Power to Do More – Accelerating Results" event as we provide an update on our strategy and new solutions.