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The Sentient Enterprise by Thomas H. Davenport, Mohanbir Sawhney, Oliver Ratzesberger

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CHAPTER 3The Agile Data Platform

Texas-based Dell, Inc. has thrived by skillfully adapting to business and consumer needs over more than three decades. By 2017, Dell was ranked as the world’s largest privately held technology company and the United States’ fourth largest private company, with revenues of $72 billion and a global workforce of more than 140,000 people. Like all large firms, Dell has found ways to scale operations globally, but not without significant data management challenges along the way.

“It came to a head for us when we set up global manufacturing processes and infrastructure,” says Dell’s vice president for enterprise services and order experience, Jennifer Felch. As Jennifer began telling us the story of Dell’s initial push to aggregate global manufacturing data across all functions and regions into one master environment for reporting and analytics, the struggle she described sounded strikingly similar to the data drift, duplication, and other pain points we first highlighted in Chapter 1.

“At one point, we’d have a number of teams that were pulling data, doing analytics in their own data cubes, and then getting into meetings with each other and discussing why their data didn’t match up,” she told us in an interview. “People were taking data and it never came back. They would create reports, but that data never came back as shared data. Our number-one priority was to make the data transparent, accessible, and consistent as our company grew.”

“Scaling ...

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