Data management — definition, types, challenges, and more

Data management

Businesses are awash in data, and it’s up to leaders to determine the best strategy for managing all of it. With decision-makers relying increasingly on intangible assets to create value, understanding data management is necessary to develop a strategy that can help them collect, analyze, and utilize data to their organization’s benefit.

In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of data management and tips to help you improve data collection, analysis, utilization, and management. After reading, you’ll leave feeling confident about creating your own data strategy — and knowing that your business can use the data appropriately.

This post will explain:

What is data management?

Data management is the process businesses follow to collect, organize, and use data. The goal of data management is to balance a company’s needs for efficiency and organization with the equally important need for security and cost savings.

Instead of leaving the handling of information up to individual employees or departments, a proper data management approach creates official policies and workflows to develop a consistent standard across the business. This ultimately helps organizations make better use of their data at scale.

Benefits of data management

Data management is more important than ever. Organizations are contending with terabytes of information about their customers and products. Without data management, they have no framework to help them make sense of this data. This means businesses waste precious time and resources, as well as critical data that could improve their operations.

Effective data management allows companies to turn raw data into useful insights that can generate revenue and help them get more value out of their data for less effort. Businesses that invest in data management enjoy a number of benefits.

  1. Visibility. What information do you have available across your business? Data management brings all data sources into one feed, giving you comprehensive visibility and control over your own data in a single, big-picture view.
  2. Reliability. How reliable is your data, really? Don’t ask employees to sift through information to find what’s accurate and what isn’t. Data management allows businesses to ensure reliability while decreasing time to value.
  3. Security. Unmanaged data is a serious security concern. By bringing your information under control, data management can help you secure it from unauthorized access. It’s one of the best ways to prevent the expensive headaches of data breaches.
  4. Scalability. The good news is that your business doesn’t have to manage data manually. Data management solutions make it possible to undertake data management automatically and at scale. This is the best way to ensure data consistency and security across your enterprise.
  5. Profitability. Data can help your business become more profitable, but only if you mobilize it. Data management makes it possible to find valuable insights into your business so you can make more profitable decisions.
  6. Transparency. Research shows 70% of consumers don’t trust companies that sell or use their personal data. Building trust with your customers takes time, but being transparent with how you use their data can help. Sharing your data policies with customers can make it easier to lock down their data while earning their trust.
  7. Consistency. Inconsistent information can lead to misunderstandings. But with data management, everyone sees a unified, centralized view of your raw data in one place.
  8. Compliance. Businesses are required to give consumers control over their data. Data management allows you to stay compliant with GDPR, CCPA, and other data privacy regulations. This can help you avoid expensive regulatory fines while improving your customer relationships.

Types of data management

Types of data management

Every business is unique, which is why there are a variety of methods for managing data. Companies are free to create their own mix of data management practices, but these techniques are the most common:

1. Data pipelines

A data pipeline is a path for businesses to transfer information between two or more different systems automatically. For example, you might connect your sales enablement software to your website analytics to bulk up your lead profiles. Sometimes the data pipeline will change or enhance your data during the exchange process, but it can also leave the raw data as is.

2. ETLs (extract, transform, load)

An ETL is a type of data pipeline. It extracts data from a database, transforms it with formatting, and loads it into a new location for storage. The benefit of using an ETL is that it can take data from multiple sources and store it in a single solution.

3. Data architecture

All data strategies start with architecture. With data architecture, you build out the flow of information throughout your systems. This is a formal process to help you manage the flow of data through a solid data structure. It covers everything from storage to usage to compliance.

4. Data modeling

Data models are visual diagrams of how data flows through a system. They can help your team understand the flow of data within a system or between different systems. It’s common for businesses to create multiple data models for their various systems.

5. Data catalogs

Data catalogs store and organize data based on back-end information, which is called metadata. A data catalog makes important information searchable so you can find it quickly. For example, businesses can store inventory information in a data catalog and tag entries with labels that make it easier to find product information.

6. Data governance

Data governance is the set of rules you follow to standardize data. This helps with data quality and data compliance. Businesses will usually have a team in charge of data governance to hold the business accountable and make policy updates as needed.

7. Data security

The goal of data security is to protect your information from breaches, theft, and unauthorized access. This is usually an IT function that creates policies for software, access, backups, storage, and more.

8. Other data management types

Data is versatile, so businesses are free to create management policies tailored to their needs. Alternative data management types are less common, but many businesses add these to their data management mix for a more holistic approach:

Some businesses can use just a few types of data management, while large enterprises might need many or all of the types listed here. Evaluate the usefulness of these strategies to pick the perfect data management mix for your team.

The goal of data management is to balance a company’s needs for efficiency and organization with the equally important need for security and cost savings.

Data management challenges

Data management has proven benefits for businesses, but it isn’t easy to execute. Business today is fast paced, and the increasing expansion of available data makes it even more challenging to glean its true value.

While there are certainly other challenges that come with data management, these are some of the most common:

Data management best practices

While data management certainly has its challenges, businesses can mitigate the effects of these challenges by embracing best practices. Here are some of the best practices that will give your business a great place to start:

Data management can help you develop a strategy for properly collecting, analyzing, and utilizing information to benefit your business.

Data management software

All businesses need policies in place for data management, but policies alone won’t help you manage the huge amount of information in your organization. You need the right mix of data management software in your tech stack to effectively use this data at scale.

Data management protects your data and keeps your team both productive and secure. Good data management software can help you do all of this automatically, significantly reducing inefficiencies and losses.

Businesses can choose from a mix of several different data management solutions. These are three of the most common types of software available for managing data:

  1. Master data management software. These solutions offer a little bit of everything, ranging from data collection to verification to organization. Master data management software pulls all of your information sources together into a unified view. You can get better visibility with these solutions, which ensure your data are accurate and actionable.
  2. Storage management software. Data storage can be expensive and complicated. Fortunately, storage management software helps businesses regain control of their information. With a storage management solution, you can find the best ways to store your data, whether that’s on-premises, in the cloud, or with a hybrid solution.
  3. Integration software. Chances are that your business needs to connect different data collection, storage, and analytics solutions. Not all of these solutions work together properly out of the box, though, which is why many organizations invest in integration software. Use these solutions to integrate your data management solutions more seamlessly.

Be part of the evolving data management scene

Data management changes as quickly as data technology changes. It’s hardly set in stone, but it’s critical for businesses to create a plan for managing large amounts of data.

Instead of simply collecting more and more information that you can’t mobilize, use data management to regain control of your data — and generate value from it. Data management can help you develop a strategy for properly collecting, analyzing, and utilizing information to benefit your business.

When you’re ready to get started, check out the advanced features of Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform. Real-Time CDP collects B2C and B2B data from across systems and unifies it into real-time profiles ready for activation across any channel. With best-in-class usage governance, brands can use data more responsibly and transparently so consumers have greater control over their information.

Watch the Adobe Real-Time CDP overview video or take an interactive tour to learn more.