Today, data is an imperative for organisations across all fields, regardless of their size or purpose.

By Julien Alteirac, regional vice-president: northern Europe and emerging markets at Snowflake

Strategically, businesses rely on data-driven insights into industries, operations, and customers to remain competitive, improve performance, and deliver strong user experiences. For industries such as healthcare, transportation, aviation, construction, and banking, real-time data analysis is becoming a necessity to ensure the health and safety of people, especially as automation and reliance on artificial intelligence increase.

The need to share data takes on a new importance in light of its criticality in the global economy. Organisations want to break down data silos and derive insights faster by enabling intra-company and cross-company sharing with partners, vendors, suppliers and customers. While some see data sharing as an opportunity to monetise their data, others want to consume data from more sources to enrich their own analysis.

Unfortunately, sharing data represents a real challenge for organisations that rely on traditional methods. Any time data sharing includes emailing spreadsheets or conducting batch processes such as FTP and ETL, the result is stale data copies that waste valuable time, money and resources.

Data-driven organisations now require a better way to share data – one that does not require copying or even moving any data, and eliminates the need to transform data so it can be used.

Here are five strategies to help improve secure data collaboration:

Intra-company strategy

It’s not unusual to struggle with data sharing across business units, departments, locations, and subsidiaries, especially if you’re a national, multinational, or global organisation. More often than not, a cohesive data strategy was missing at the outset. Urgency took the place of cohesion, and teams and departments adopted various data-storage solutions to meet their pressing needs.

These one-off decisions combined to form the data silos of today. As a result, data-driven insights and business opportunities are often limited in value and scope due to incompatible systems and the inability to share real-time data with colleagues.

If you want to deliver stronger business productivity, better internal collaboration, and more data-driven insights, it’s time to maintain a central location for approved and secure data.

Cross-company strategy

Organisations today are operating within a global economy that demands a new level of collaboration with external partners, suppliers, vendors and customers. However, fear around controlling data and not wanting to exist outside of the organisation often lead to locking down proprietary data and not benefitting from cross-company collaboration.

Companies that will continue to be competitive are those that recognise the value of sharing information both internally and externally to spur growth and productivity. The act of data sharing strengthens collaboration, accelerates new insights and improves business relationships.

A data exchange can improve cross-company collaboration through enabling internal employees to make data sets accessible to external customers, suppliers, vendors and partners, while maintaining control over their own data, which data sets are shared, who has access, and who can publish data sets.

Data sourcing strategy

Companies in industries that rely on external data for competitive advantage are always looking for better ways to get unique data sets and generate new insights.

Financial services organisations such as hedge funds rely on alternative data which, when combined with the standard market data, can give them new perspectives on why certain businesses are doing well and what particular trends could adversely affect their portfolio.

However, the sheer number of different data sources; the different file formats and delivery methods used by data vendors; and the data transformation efforts required by the data scientists create a bottleneck that limits data volume and how frequently the data can be sourced, evaluated, acquired and finally put to use – not to mention the costs associated.

For these companies, having a better way to source external data at scale in a governed way is critical for their ongoing success. By creating their own data exchange, they can invite data vendors to publish their myriad data sets to a central portal where data scientists can easily and quickly evaluate the data and decide which data to acquire. Once that decision is made, because the data from the vendors is already on that company’s data exchange, the data scientists have immediate access to the data directly from their data warehouse.

By creating your own data exchange, not only will your teams access live, ready-to-query data that is pre-approved, but you can track data usage and have complete visibility into which data sets and providers are used the most. While ensuring security, you will reduce time to insight and improve collaboration across a broader spectrum of data.

Data distribution strategy

As a source of data for other organisations, your company has likely struggled to deliver data without workarounds. Perhaps you’ve used APIs, copied files using FTP or tried other traditional data-sharing methods in order to give your data customers access, while realising fully that they are receiving only a snapshot in time of the data. Even cloud buckets have fallen short due to friction and lack of scalability. Isn’t it frustrating not to be able to fulfill customers’ requests for direct data access?

All that changes with a data exchange. By creating and hosting your own walled garden of shared data, you can provide customers with an online data portal where live data is accessed securely without the need for transformation. In addition to direct data access, data feeds can be personalised for better customer experiences and increased customer retention. By monitoring and tracking data usage, you can ascertain which data sets are most popular and improve your data products and monetisation strategies. With the removal of API maintenance or the use of FTP, you also see an overall reduction in costs and improved margins.

Hybrid strategy

If you find yourself enticed by more than one type of data collaboration, chances are that your organisation would benefit from a hybrid solution. After all, there’s no reason to limit collaboration to only one scenario.

For example, you can promote intra-company and cross-company data collaboration at the same time as you set up a data exchange account to source the best external data sources possible.

Are you ready for a data exchange?

Every organisation benefits from real-time and seamless access to data. Only a narrow view of the world can be examined when data is confined to one organisation – or worse, to individual business units. Comprehensive, impactful data analysis requires a breadth and depth of information that few, if any, companies possess on their own.

To match the pace of business and thrive in this global economy, the goal should be to foster transparent, data-driven relationships within and across organisations.