Magazine Article | October 8, 2013

Big Data's Big Benefits: How Managing Data Can Mitigate Risk

Source: Life Science Leader

By Dr. Werner Hopf, CEO, Dolphin

Few would argue that the age of Big Data has arrived. Businesses across virtually every industry – especially the Life Sciences sector – are witnessing an explosion in the amount of data being created and therefore managed. Whether it is analytical, operational, transactional, structured or unstructured, more data is being created and stored today than at any other point in human history.

While much debate is taking place about the potential value of analyzing these vast stores of information to identify research trends, business inefficiencies and even predict future behavior, the simple truth remains that there are very practical problems related to having large amounts of data, and accessing the data, which should concern Life Sciences executives.

Big Data’s Big Problems

CIOs who allow data to grow unchecked, like an undiagnosed disease, are at risk of seeing the health of their operation flat-line. Too much data can slow system performance and cause inefficient processing, poor audit responsiveness and even increased risk of regulatory and governance non-compliance such as PII, PCI, HIPPA and others.

However, for most businesses, the cure is already within reach. An aggressive data management and archiving strategy can relieve Life Sciences companies of maladies which slow down their business including research, development and manufacturing. Consider the following benefits of managing data.

Risk Mitigation

The best offense is a pro-active defense. Information discovery and the aggregation of specific documents spread across disparate systems are time-consuming tasks which take away from the day-to-day operations. Missing an audit deadline, sharing too little or even too much information can result in costly fines or impact your reputation

For some operations, this is a fact of life which has been accepted at all levels of management. However, a successful data archiving strategy that includes transparent access that uses security standards and a means to quickly search across multiple systems will provide improved visibility to selected information, but in a controlled manner, helping to dramatically mitigate risk. This type of solution delivers the specific data requested by regulatory agencies to be quickly gathered and shared.  The end result is improved productivity attained by reducing the amount of time spent responding to audit requests, as well as improved cash flow created from increased productivity and by eliminating the risk of costly fines.

One of the most important aspects of managing data from a governance perspective is how it is treated at the end of its life.  There are prescribed ways to purge data that is no longer needed or legally retained. Part of managing data through its lifecycle is knowing when and how to “destroy” data without impacting legal or other holds.

Improved Security

Encryption has become a hot button issue as international, federal, state and other regulatory bodies are more strictly enforcing laws dealing with privacy and other sensitive information. These regulations don’t just apply to data created going forward but to all data. Violating these regulations – which seem to be constantly evolving – can not only be costly due to expensive fines, but a breach can damage the reputation of a business for years, hampering a competitive advantage.

Many companies already encrypt data, but unfortunately, data can lose its encryption when moved from an active database to an archive. With large volumes of data inherent to the industry, archiving has become the best practices solution for managing it. This is particularly the case in ERP systems such as SAP® solutions. However, data that was archived prior to stricter enforcement of mandates (PII, HIPPA, others) may have been archived without ever having been encrypted, immediately rendering companies out of compliance. It can be a daunting task for the IT staff to identify and encrypt all of this archived data to ensure compliance. Fortunately, there are software tools that can automate the task and encrypt even down to the field level.

Budgetary Savings

The one common denominator across the Life Sciences industry is the importance of the bottom line. If left unmanaged, Big Data can consume profits at an alarming rate as the IT department struggles to keep up with the organization’s database growth. Too much volume can slow systems to the point that they affect processing efficiencies and the ability to respond quickly to changing business. And, the cost of maintaining the systems escalate as the infrastructure grows. Even more important is the fact that latency in receiving information can adversely affect management’s ability to make decisions based on real-time information.

Taking Control

With changing regulations and an uncertain economic climate, the Life Sciences sector is being challenged today in ways it never imagined just a decade ago. Big Data provides insight as never before, but also needs to be managed effectively. Organizations that implement an aggressive data archiving and data management strategy will take the first step to being able to more easily navigate today’s challenges, utilizing Big Data analytics and at the same mitigate risk and gain a competitive advantage in the process.

Dr. Werner Hopf, CEO, Dolphin, has more than 20 years of experience in the information technology sector, including 16 exclusively focused on data archiving and business process management of SAP solutions.