• March 8, 2016

Walk the Talk: Data as Strategic Asset

Data monetization is slowly motivating enterprise leaders to view information as a strategic asset. But how many organizations actually walk the talk? Not many, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology Principal Research Scientist Barbara H. Wixom. According to a poll conducted by MIT researchers, 80 percent of enterprise leaders say data is a strategic asset, but just over 30 percent say their organizations treat it like one. Why?

Old habits die hard, it seems. Traditionally, data has been difficult and expensive to harvest and process. Data management was often left to insulated IT departments. But as data became more accessible and less resource intensive to harness, its vast potential as a means to create decisive competitive advantage became readily apparent.

Data as Enterprise Stepchild

In the recent past, organizations focused on people, processes, and technology to drive business outcomes rather than focusing on data. Yet data brings each of these elements together to drive business outcomes. That’s why traditional strategies that put little focus on data are wholly inadequate in this fast-paced, volatile digital environment. They throttle speed, agility, and innovation.

For the enterprise, “data is the new oil,” as marketing commentator Michael Palmer remarked back in 2006. Like crude, data is valuable, but near useless if not refined. It needs to be transformed into the fuels and materials that drive enterprise profitability. And the quality of these insights is not an IT problem. It’s a business problem.

Data as Prized Asset

The critical element in this data equation is a governance strategy that recognizes the value of this precious enterprise asset. This means more than simply cleaning up bad data. It means establishing controls to protect, monitor, and manage data quality. These measures are planned for at the launch of any initiative that consumes data. Management strategies should continue throughout the data lifecycle, because with time, data quality degrades if it is not properly governed.

At its heart, data is not about servers, networks, databases, and applications. It’s about creating more value and insight-driven application of this asset. Data is an essential element in the health of the organization. It creates objective views that fuel people, processes, and technology, in turn driving business value.

And as a core strategic asset, it should be treated as such. But establishing a culture that prioritizes data requires significant investments in time, effort, and skill sets. Senior enterprise leadership and board members must work to ruthlessly eliminate data silos and integrate information across the enterprise. With solid, streamlined data protocols, innovators can more easily figure out how they can use data to propel the enterprise forward.

Like this story? Read more about Mining Value from Hockey and Right-Hand Turns.