On August 29, 2018, ThinkData Works CEO and co-founder Bryan Smith led a talk at Communitech in Waterloo, Ontario, about “Data-First” companies – organizations that invest in data first and foremost – and how they’re changing the business landscape. Apple had famously reached a trillion-dollar valuation on August 2, 2018, and Smith predicted that Amazon wasn’t far behind. The race to a trillion, he said, mimics the 4-minute mile: as soon as one person breaks it, we’re going to see a lot of other companies start breaking it.
Six days later, Amazon hit a trillion-dollar valuation.
But it’s not just mega-corporations who will benefit from being data-first; there are countless opportunities for data to play a role in increasing value for businesses and customers alike.
Whether you’re just starting to develop your data capabilities or they’ve been your focus for years, becoming a data-first company is about more than infrastructure – it’s about developing the best game plan. At Communitech, Smith outlined five ways that every organization can maximize the amount, the quality, and the value of the data they use.
There are a number of issues with the way most companies share data internally. The issue of security is top priority. Emailing spreadsheets is irresponsible, especially when they contain sensitive information, but it’s still the way a lot of companies share data from one floor to the next. If the data in that spreadsheet changes next week, you’ve got to do the whole process again. There are a number of ways to distribute information, but whether you’re using a thumbdrive or Dropbox there are problems of managing permissions and keeping data up-to-date.
We don’t need to explain the value of external data. Data created outside the four walls of your organization can help deliver unique insights and give you a competitive edge. The problem is that data created outside your organization is, well, created outside your organization. Finding, connecting to, and normalizing data from external sources is a strain on your team, and a strain that grows exponentially with every new source you connect to.
The value and availability of data means that everyone should be connecting to more, not less, of it. Organizations and individuals should be able to access a data marketplace that makes every source of external data available in the format they want, acting like a bridge between the people who have data and the people who can use it to their advantage.
Working with a top notch data scientist and can’t figure out why they haven’t built something amazing? It’s not them, it’s your data. 80% of a data scientist’s time is eaten up by the most menial aspects of their job – sourcing data and making it useable. About a fifth of their time is taken up simply finding the data, and a staggering 60% of their time is lost to cleaning, organizing, formatting, and otherwise getting data into shape. That’s not why they got into data science.
MIT Technology Review published this statistic in an article and it really knocked us off our feet. But the truth of the matter is that of the 2.5 exabytes of data created every day, only a tiny fraction is being used.
Transforming data into something meaningful is difficult. Despite the quantity of data that’s out there and the appetite for the insight it represents, the barriers to using internal and external data effectively have made it very difficult to use a lot of it.
In practice, this means that for most companies the only data they’re connecting to is a) the lowest hanging fruit, or b) that which is absolutely critical for their success.
This means that getting creative with data, or developing models and trying them out is out of scope. In order to gain the advantages of data, we can’t be stingy with it.
That’s why. According to Forrester “By 2021, insights-driven business will steal $1.8 trillion dollars a year in revenue from competitors that are not insights-driven.”
Let the word “steal” really sink in. In order to compete, businesses are going to have to significantly increase the amount of data they use.
It’s great to have your data in a lake. Now it’s time to get it out.
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