How to Differentiate on Your Data
Current popular opinion states that companies that differentiate on their data will be the most successful. This is my current favourite quote:
“Victory won’t go to those with the most data. It will go to those who make the best use of data.” — Doug Henschen, Information Week, May 2014
But how do you actually make best use of your data and become one of the data success stories? If you are going to differentiate on data, you need to use your data to innovate. Common options include:
- New products & services which leverage a rich data set
- Different ways to sell & market existing products and services based on detailed knowledge
But there is no ‘app for that’. Think about it – if you can buy an application, you are already too late. Somebody else has identified a need and created a product they expect to sell repeatedly. Applications cannot provide you a competitive advantage if everyone has one. Most people agree they will not rise to the top because they have installed ERP, CRM, SRM, etc. So it will become with any applications which claim to win you market share and profits based on data. If you want to differentiate, you need to stay ahead of the application curve, and let your internal innovation drive you forward.
Simplistically this is a 4 step process:
- Assemble a team of innovative employees, match them with skilled data scientists
- Identify data-based differentiation opportunities
- Feed the team high quality data at the rate in which they need it
- Provide them tools for data analysis and integrating data into business processes as required
Leaving aside the simplicity of these steps for a process – there is one key change to a ‘normal’ IT project. Normally data provisioning is an afterthought during IT projects. Now it must take priority. Frequently data integration is poorly executed, and barely documented. Data quality is rarely considered during projects. Poor data provisioning is a direct cause of spaghetti charts which contribute to organisational inflexibility and poor data availability to the business. Does “It will take 6 months to make those changes” sound familiar?
We have been told Big Data will change our world; Data is a raw material; Data is the new oil.
The business world is changing. We are moving into a world where our data is one of our most valuable resources, especially when coupled with our internal innovation. Applications used to differentiate us, now they are becoming commodities to be replaced and upgraded, or new ones acquired as rapidly as our business changes.
I believe that in order to differentiate on data, an organisation needs to treat data as the valuable resource we all say it is. Data Agility, Management and Governance are the true differentiators of our era. This is a frustration for those trying to innovate, but locked in an inflexible data world, built at a time people still expected ERP to be the answer to everything.
To paraphrase a recent complaint I heard: “My applications should be like my phone. I buy a new one, turn it on and it already has all my data”.
This is the exact vision that is driving Informatica’s Intelligent Data Platform.
In the end, differentiating on data comes down to one key necessity: High quality data MUST be available to all who need it, when they need it.