Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Data Asset

Data is like the crude oil, the primitive forest, the deep sea, the soft asset and the raw intelligence of business in the 21st century

Statistically, the amount of data stored is doubling every 18 months, and many organizations concern "we have too much data but not enough information" or "we are rich in data but poor in information, knowledge, insight and analysis.". The underlying question is whether data can be an economic or productive asset for digital business or not.

Data is the crude oil of the 21st century. Data is the input to obtain information, and information is the real asset because it's consolidated, consistent and reliable to extract the business knowledge and insight about customers, operation and future trend of business. So Data may be the new Oil. If so, then the new refineries must be BI or analytics applications. Crude Oil is not of use on its own, rather, it must be refined and often turned into petrochemicals, so data has to be turned into reports, dashboards, etc for business leaders or staffs to use. Equally, if data is the new “rock and roll”, then data scientists are the new rock stars…Data is a business asset if it can create value by answering the right business questions. Whether data has value depends on the value of the questions that can be answered through the use of that data. If you’re collecting data before formulating the questions, then you might just be a compulsive hoarder. On the other hand, if the data is answering valuable questions, then the data could represent some portion of the intangible assets of a company and be accounted for in the difference between market value and book value. 

Data is also like the primitive forest. To say that data isn't an asset is to say that a forest isn't an asset. Amassed data like the forest is a resource and can be processed into information (wood) or crafted further to knowledge (goods). To pull out the old cliché, knowledge is power. That's what data provides. Data is an asset so as long as it stays accurate, consistent, and reliable. If data is organized and analyzed properly, valuable decisions or judgments can be made to ensure prosperity. Data is an asset because its intangibles become tangible once a certain risk has been avoided or goals achieved. However, data only helps if you use it right. When you can develop data into sense-making 'tools' to assist and guide operations, marketing, and planning, your data becomes strategic. Many companies turn their untapped data into a real asset to support better business decisions. If you get a lot of data, but you are not able to extract information from them, you cannot apply actions in the correct form to reach your aims.  To quote Lucius Annaeus Seneca "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable".

“Hard” data as the “soft” asset is not always put on the balance sheet.  Apart from people, data is a company’s biggest asset. Both loyal, well-trained staff and qualified data or information are "asset", but they may not belong on the balance sheet. Data may behave more like inventory, and it surely has a limited shelf life in many cases. In that light, to be an asset from an accounting point of view, it needs to have a "net realizable value" - and how does one determine yet? There is willing buyer matching with a willing seller. The raw data can be bought and sold. The analysis of the data can be sold –The question is: Do you really want to look for a potential willing buyer for your information with know-how and competitive advantage. The value data intelligence can bring to an organization that is willing to invest in high-quality data analytics, as it sets an organization apart from its competitors. So you need the right tools to make sense of raw data and to derive actionable information for management. A good business intelligence tool can do just that for you. Old school says knowledge is power. The new school is seeing opportunities for improvement and rallying with a team of people passionate about solutions. Given a chance, people will jump in to do anything meaningful, with impact.

Floating on the deep sea of data and drinking the “insight": The deep sea analogy is also a good articulation about big data, as it tends to be taken for granted, but most certainly, it is an asset and also has to be stored and filtered and delivered before it is useful. The systematic data management includes the following steps: 1) you must first collect data that matches the processes. 2) you must collect the data needed to support and assist in discovering the answers. 3) Then you must organize the data so it becomes insights and information. 4) Then you can make informed decisions based upon the insights the information gives usData can build knowledge. 

Data is like the crude oil, the primitive forest, the deep sea, the soft asset and the raw intelligence of business. Information will be the product of the future, your ability to produce information required in a manner will be the only product that your competitor cannot duplicate, with ever shortening turn- around time for product development, the only the advantage you really have is the information at your disposal. Any information you can leverage from your data has the potential to be a productive asset as intelligence or operative material. So your first challenge is to develop an information model for your business and ensure that the data you have is sufficient to turn it into useful business insight strategically, methodologically and economically. 


Insightful post, thanks for sharing. It's definitely a different time for CIOs, especially when it comes to dealing with big data and data management. In our business, it's important to link together all areas of business from different data sources & divisions. One does need good data for good reporting and business insight, especially when dealing with data from multiple sources.

Linda Boudreau
Data Ladder

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