In recent years there has been a lot written on the topic of big data, and one idea I find intriguing is that when it’s used effectively, teams with access to big data can go from being dependent on what they know, to being driven by what they can learn. This opens up opportunities for new insights, which an in turn lead to opportunities in areas like efficiency, competitive differentiation and so on.
The key to having data is not that you have data (or that it’s ’big’), it’s the potential business benefit you gain from having data. Unfortunately, too often we put a wall between the data, and the people and teams who could really benefit from it. Sometimes the wall is an expert, or a cost, or simply time. If that wall becomes higher when you collect more and more data, collecting more data won’t add more value to your business.
This is why the ‘question’ analogy is useful here. The goal with data is not to collect as much as we can, it’s to answer specific and evolving questions related to our business. To do so, you need to break down those walls requiring you to find the expertise, budget and time to answer those questions. Failing this, your data will continue to silently hold the answers to your most compelling questions.
So what does the perfect data app look like?
Given that we understand the on-going problem of not being able to get the most out of our data when we need to, it’s a useful exercise to review how, in an ideal world, we would potentially use data to empower our teams. And because we all love acronyms, let’s go for the three ‘U’s of a perfect data application –
Up-to-date – the data you are most interested in to guide your actions today is data that’s current. This means that any delay between an application accumulating data and making it available must be reduced to as close to zero as possible. If you need to update a sales forecast let’s say, you absolutely need the most up-to-date information.
Ubiquitous – you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get at that important data, so it should be easily accessible to everyone who needs it, when they need it. Whether it’s a support engineer on the Shinkansen pulling out of Tokyo on the way to a customer meeting, or the product lead preparing for a quarterly review at HQ in Palo Alto.
User-friendly – nobody should need to be ‘trained’ before getting access to the data they need, and everyone should be able to access it directly without having to call on the ‘expert’. And when the data is presented to them, it should be obvious what they’re looking at – so no need for specific expertise, or other documentation or other reference guides. And what’s more, if the app no longer serves the needs of the team as those needs evolve, it should be easy to update.
If your data is sensitive, security is of course a critical concern. You will often need to reliably limit access to the data you choose to share, and perhaps also have a level of control over who can see what data.
And just because the barrier to entry is low, it doesn’t mean that the resulting applications can only be rudimentary – the low code application development tools offered by Oracle are enabling feature rich applications like the Oracle Learning Library today.
Succeed fast, succeed often
Contrary to the common tech mantra, wouldn’t it be better if you could quickly build an app to share critical data with your team, and not hesitate to do it? So rather than wondering if it would be possible, and deciding that you don’t have the skills, you would ideally want a way of developing with a platform that put more of a focus on getting up and running quickly. And the beauty of lowering the barrier to entry means that you can experiment.
The value of experimentation is that it can help you uncover unexpected insights. So let’s say that it would take your expert six months to implement a single solution that you carefully defined, imagine if your team could come up with alternatives in less than two weeks? Initially those alternatives may not be perfect, but the learning process may uncover new possibilities not originally imagined, and ultimately lead to a superior solution.
“Oracle Database and Oracle Application Express are critical to our mission of identifying the biomarkers related to breast cancer. The solution gives our researchers the tools they need to successfully filter and reduce data, as well as generate hypotheses, without being slowed by weeks or months of software obstacles. In addition, the tool’s collaborative services make us more competitive for future research opportunities,” said Dr. John Springer, assistant professor, department of computer and information technology, Purdue University.
Why not make everyone smarter?
That’s obvious – right? If everyone who needs insights from the data can get them, they’re by definition ‘smarter’. But if we dig a little deeper, we’re effectively doing this by lowering the expertise, cost and time barriers. We do this at Oracle in two ways – first of all we significantly lower the effort to make that data continuously available and secure with Oracle Autonomous Database, then we make the data you and your team care about easily accessible with via low code application development with APEX/ORDS/SDW.
Everyone in the team also gets smarter by adding the skill to quickly develop an app that gives them access to the data they care about, when they care about it. And because that data lives in the Oracle Autonomous Database, teams can spend significantly less time and effort keeping their data available and secure – freeing team members to move from data management to data insights.
One great consequence of being able to develop applications more easily, is that they can now be developed speculatively. Imagine being in a position where you can quickly spin up an app on demand, where you don’t need to put it in a pipeline to get budget and the attention of your ‘experts’. That’s what the combination of Oracle Autonomous Database and Oracle APEX/ORDS/SDW gives you.
In the next installment in this blog series, we’ll take look at the kinds of applications that can be quickly developed and easily maintained, and what kind of impact you can really have on your business by combining the power of Oracle Autonomous Database with the low code development capabilities offered by APEX and related technology.