The data-driven enterprise

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Also posted on: The IM Blog

The fundamental principle of the data-driven enterprise is that data should be treated as a valuable corporate resource in much the same way as plant and equipment, products and employees are.

Beyond that, there are two further implications. Firstly, that the data-driven enterprise will use the analysis of the data it collects to drive actionable insights (another buzz phrase) that will increase productivity, efficiency and decision making across the company. Secondly, where applicable, the organisation’s data awareness may help to drive new business models such as Lexmark selling printing as a service as opposed to selling printers.

All of this is fine, though no panacea: actionable insights may be fine when those actions can be automated but will be of no value if they only help to support confirmation bias. That is, “I have a theory, the data supports my theory” as opposed to “this is the data, what conclusions can I draw from it?”. The data-driven enterprise needs to encourage objective rather than subjective approaches.

As a (very) brief overview, I think this more or less captures the essence of how most people think about the data-driven enterprise. However, I think there is a third strand to this, and it is the result of GDPR (general data protection regulation). GDPR, in effect, forces companies to treat private data as an enterprise asset in much the same way that they would treat other information assets, such as product data. Of course, some companies did not need GDPR to do this for them, but many will have only done so on a siloed basis (within marketing, for example) rather than on an enterprise-wide basis. These, and those that have ignored the issue completely, will be forced to do so in future, in order to comply.

The key point here, I think, is that even where the value of customer data (and GDPR also applies to employee data) has been appreciated, that does not mean that companies have operationalised processes such as data discovery and masking on an enterprise-wide scale. But they will need to do so for GDPR purposes. Thus, in effect, GDPR is a driver, not just for data governance but for the data-driven enterprise more broadly.

I will be discussing these and related matters with respect to the data-driven enterprise at a Digital Boardroom organised by CIO Watercooler (with which we have recently formed a partnership) on February 12th.