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Thought leadership

Roll back the doors and open your data warehouse

A discussion about the future of data warehouses and how collaboration could help investment firms achieve more with their data.

Since the 1950s, the steadily increasing amount of personal possessions coupled with a decreasing amount of living space in the developed world has provoked a corresponding increase in the use of self-storage solutions.  Add to that downsizing baby-boomers or belongings being passed on to subsequent generations, who are hoarding heirlooms, in place of emotional belonging and you see how the trend is set to continue.

This means there are hordes of households – in the US, around 1 in 10 according to sparefoot.com1 - who keep some of their belongings in a warehouse, to access them later.  On the face of it, this seems to make sense.  You rent lower cost real estate to store infrequently used belongings that you can’t fit in your own (possibly premium real estate) home, sacrificing a small amount of convenience to gain access.

To sell their services, storage providers reduce that inconvenience as much as possible.  They offer dedicated spaces, private and secure entry, 24-hour access and so forth.  Recently, there has been an increase in “Valet Storage” startups – where the provider picks up the goods from you, stores them and will, when necessary, deliver them back, all via an app as the preferred method of communication.  This model only works where the price difference between residential and industrial real estate in a locality is significant enough to allow the provider to generate margin from the service.  However, no matter the service model, the client is still beholden to the rules set out by the provider.  Regardless of the ease of access described by them or provided by them, access will be, and can only ever be, on their terms.

But what if that changed?

Consider global logistics for a moment.  Freight moves from typical manufacturing countries, like China or Taiwan to logistics hubs, like Singapore, before being transported around the world, to the US, UK etc.  In this process, transport is shared.  So is storage. So are the gigantic cranes that serve to remove or replace containers from the cargo ships that unbeknownst to them, play their own part in the satisfaction of our hunger for consumerism.  Once goods are on land, the trailers that take containers from city to city and town to town are maintained by service companies.  Transferring goods from one location to another is a collaborative exercise.  Support services are shared, for the good of all, reducing cost and increasing efficiency.

Applying a similar approach to data

Why then aren’t we applying a similar model when it comes to data and its use throughout our industry?  The data each firm uses is generally the same.  It’s provided by the same organizations.  It’s likely that each investment manager, or bank, or pension fund, whatever, treats it in the same way – cleans it, alters it and stores it for later use. That’s a lot of duplicated effort and unnecessary cost.  Then, when each firm has used it, it sits in a data warehouse, waiting eagerly to receive a metaphorical tap on the shoulder and a kindly “you’re needed” as part of an audit-trail or retrospective overview of what has lead us to where we are today.

It must make more sense to share that burden; sharing the logistical problems of delivery, sorting, cleansing and storage, for each firm to access it, when required – via a dedicated space, private and secure entry, 24 hour access and so forth…

But what then, if we went one step further.  Instead of reliance on the provider to grant access, or at least, design the process around that access, what if we were able to enable the users of the data to design their own access.  How about we allow the users to then “sell” their access methods to their peers?  This would allow the users of the data to collaborate further, not only increasing the efficiency in their own organization, but at the same time, reduce the cost of doing so.

In our world of digital upvotes, likes, claps, +1s, etc.  we can easily give each other a virtual pat on back and that’s great.  But potentially, we’re close to the stage today where we can begin to bring real value to such appreciation.  Take for example the SimCorp Dimension Data Warehouse.  We know our clients take different sets of data from it, have different uses for its data and plug it in to different downstream systems.  What would happen if those uses – calculations, extracts, formats etc. were shared amongst other SimCorp Dimension Data Warehouse clients?  Well, for us, we’d be facilitating greater collaboration amongst ourselves and the SimCorp user community, and greater than that, we’d be opening the doors of the data warehouse for the benefit of its users – i.e. telling the self-storage customers that they can now set the rules.

I once met an Australian miner, who was on a 6-month vacation as part of an annual 6 months on, 6 months off work cycle.  I asked him what he mined.  As I might have expected, the blunt reply (minus expletives) was, “whatever they ask me to”.  The point being that he didn’t have specific expertise in a particular mineral and didn’t care what was going to happen to it, but he had the skills to extract it and his expertise was being relied on by many organizations to do so.

Providing a Data Warehouse is one of the less sexy things we do, but it doesn’t have to be.  Let’s start a discussion.  What do you think its future is?

1. https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/news/1432-self-storage-industry-statistics/

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