Data is becoming as critical to life as electricity. We at IDC estimate that in only eight years, nearly 20% of the data in the world will be critical to our daily lives, and nearly 10% of that will be hypercritical—of life-or-death importance.

What does this mean for your business? This digital transformation will require broader, faster, and more secure access to data, whether the transformation is of business models, operations, or the customer experience.

Harnessing the potential of data through digital transformation demands a reliable and flexible IT infrastructure. That’s why hybrid cloud deployments are the “new norm.”

Transformation Through Data

For visionaries who are looking to use data to drive digital transformation, it’s vital to understand how dynamic, distributed, and diverse this data is. The diversity is particularly important. The types of data that can transform operations, the customer experience, or an organization’s business increasingly come not just from applications and business users but from customers and the products they own. The challenge is to identify that information, enrich it with understanding, and analyze it to drive better outcomes.

As an example, let’s look at a manufacturer of small combustion engines. This manufacturer instrumented its engines to gather information about how they perform. The manufacturer makes this information available, in an easy-to-understand visual form, to its resellers, who can then offer services such as preventive maintenance before, say, the summer mowing season for lawn mowers, or before a storm, in the case of generators. This use of data creates new revenue opportunities for resellers and, by improving the customer experience, increases brand loyalty and sales.

Skills and Services

Let’s drill down into the technical and business skills required to use data as a competitive differentiator. You will need access to data across multiple systems, repositories, and applications. Then you’ll need to provide a rich set of services for that data, ranging from protection against loss, to security, to data discovery and classification. And you’ll need those data services to work across different infrastructure platforms on premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid on-premises/cloud environments.

To this end, we at IDC created a taxonomy defining the various data services that are, or will be, provided in hybrid cloud environments. These include protection and security, compliance, integration, orchestration, and the use of AI to locate data most efficiently, based on factors such as its importance and how often it’s accessed. This framework can help you, as a data visionary, think through how to find the data you need, and also how to secure the services that let you drive digital transformation with that data.

As you evaluate these services, look for vendors that can seamlessly connect multiple private, public, or hybrid clouds, as well as simplify and integrate data management and applications for data visibility, insight, access, control, protection, and security.

Having a vision for transforming your organization with data is only the first step. Realizing that vision requires digging into the details of what data you have, and determining how to most efficiently and effectively find, access, and secure it.