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How can large companies use automation to modernize the ways they manage data?

That question was a key focus of my recent presentation at the Gateway to Innovation conference in St. Louis about a project 1904labs completed with Charter. Joined by Jonathan Andrews, Senior Director of IT Governance at Charter, our presentation outlined how 1904labs helped Charter consolidate many disparate datasets into a unified data lake, ultimately helping the company save money and communicate more effectively between its many departments.

Charter began as a small cable company in St. Louis in the 1990s, but it grew quickly over the following years, expanding to other cities and eventually becoming one of the largest cable providers in the country. Growth – especially rapid growth – can lead to problems. In our recent project with Charter, the main problem was data sprawl.

Charter recently acquired both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. After consolidating these companies, Charter found itself with too many disparate systems and no easy way to find the source of truth within their data. This made it difficult for different departments and systems within the company to communicate effectively, and to make use of each other’s data. For example, Charter had 17 different billing systems that weren’t connected to each other.

So, Charter contracted 1904labs. Our ultimate goal was to take these disparate datasets and funnel them into one unified data layer, or a data lake, from which employees in any department could easily see, put and access data. Conventionally, this might have been accomplished by an ETL (extract, transform and load) procedure. However ETL is a time-consuming process that was simply impractical in this case, considering Charter had such a large amount of datasets.

Instead, we created a data application – which we called Bridge Builder – that builds connections between Charter’s various data sources and their data lake. This enabled all of Charter’s departments to ingest their data into the data lake at a fast rate, saving the company thousands of dollars and reducing the project time by months. With this new approach, end users could access, correlate and make decisions on data they originally would have spent weeks or months trying to access. Within the same application, users could also build business logic and have it run within the application, which helped them build reports, predictive models, and enabled real-time analytics on the incoming data.

Overall, 1904labs created a solution for Charter that helped increase the company’s data maturity. By using a data lake, Charter is able to avoid data sprawl and operate more efficiently across its many departments and systems. As Jonathan pointed out during our presentation, Charter might not have seen these kinds of compounding benefits had it consulted one of the bigger players in the consulting space. Why?

One key reason is that human centered design (HCD) underlies everything we do at 1904labs. By keeping the end-user in mind during every step of a project, we’re able to build the right thing the right way. Additionally, our HCDAgile process not only helps us solve the problems that organizations want solved, but also often leads to solving problems companies might not have been aware of in the first place.