02/05/2013 09:42 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 06:12 BST

The New Intelligent Flow of Data - Cradle to the Grave

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In today's information economy, data and how it interacts or flows forms the lifeblood of business, powering day-to-day processes across every industry. The central role of data in business should come as no surprise when you think about how much information is out there. IDC estimates that an impressive 2.5 zettabytes of data was generated in 2012 alone and the growth in data looks set to continue its trajectory in the years to come. It is the transfer of this mountain of data that is becoming increasingly critical to businesses. The humdrum exchange of a purchase order or invoice signals the critical 'go' sign for goods or services to be delivered. And if payment isn't received in time it can push business blood pressure to breaking point.

So, what would a day in the life of your business data look like? For a start you would find a diary full of compulsory appointments, making sure it's in the right place at the right time. It would certainly be far better travelled than the most jet setting exec and be fluent in a whole host of languages. After all, in an average day it is expected to complete an impressive commute from one business system or application to another, across a range of physical and virtual locations, all of which expecting communication in their native tongue. Quite literally needing to be in more than one place at any given moment, it's no surprise that the ins and out of business data is climbing the corporate agenda.

So for businesses wanting to make the most of their corporate data and to keep track of how and where it moves within their organisation, they need to get a handle on the situation now. Data has the power to transform a business if used right, but this can seem like a daunting task when there's so much to deal with. In order to realise the full potential that data holds, rather than drowning under its weight, businesses must first ensure that they are educated about the new tools and intelligence for handling business data. Instead of giving in to fear, uncertainty, and doubt, they need to make IT stronger, the business healthier and to differentiate themselves in the market. And crucially they need to know how to turn this from theory into reality.

Once an organisation has grasped the importance of understanding and identifying their corporate data they must then ensure that they have a process in place to track its journey through the enterprise (its lifecycle flow). After all, the flow of data enables those critical business interactions, making sure that the right information gets to the right people or places, when it is needed, in the best format possible. As the adoption of and investment in mobile applications, big data, cloud computing and social collaboration continues, information is being shared across more and more places in any given moment, in multiple formats. This is essentially extending the 'edge' of the enterprise. With this in mind, it is more important than ever for businesses to maintain control over all the information that is exchanged, whether this takes place within the enterprise or across its borders.

Managing this flow of data takes a multipronged technology approach. Businesses need to integrate information effectively from one place to another; put policies in place that define who can do what with the information in question; ensure that adequate security is in place at every point of the information lifecycle flow; get visibility of the information right so that they can make better decisions; and prioritise the need for a reliable flow of data across the new extended enterprise edge. With this mastered, organisations can focus their efforts on growing the business, safe in the knowledge that they have mastered the necessary granular control of their data, out to the boundaries of the enterprise, from the cradle to the grave.