Is Data the new oil? An exploration by Kevin Carrick & Dave Jones

Data is the new Oil

If you google the term ‘Data is the new oil’, you’re presented with almost 600 million results.

We wanted to explore why this is such a popular and well quoted term.  Firstly, drawing on our own experiences as CIOs having worked for large multinational organisations there were some quick comparisons to make.

Whether we choose to recognise it or not, data is essential all over the typical organisation today.  Data is everywhere.  This is often the result of mergers and acquisitions, numerous ERP systems and other applications all producing reserves of data. These data reserves will double every year for the foreseeable future.

The Oilfield – Understanding the Value of Data

The comparison to oil is fitting: data can be difficult to find, buried in disparate source systems and difficult to extract.  When useful data is discovered, it will often be ‘dirty’ and in need of refinement to be of use and of true value.

Data, like oil in the 20th Century, is only becoming more essential to businesses today. As personalised customer engagement and experiences become key differentiators between market leaders and organisations that struggle to retain customers, quality data management will be essential.

What struck us when thinking about the similarities in the above comparison is the path to relevancy. Data is in a similar stage to oil when it was first discovered. The true value of oil isn’t discovered as it is mined from the ground. Techniques had to be developed to refine oil to unlock its true value. Now oil powers almost everything in our lives, from the internal combustion engine and aviation to everyday household items.

Data is on a similar path. Techniques are being developed to unify and consolidate data so that every company can start to benefit from the reserves of data that exist – customer records, sales and warehousing information etc. – to drive data transformations that will change the way companies operate and interact with customers.

Taking a Step Back – The Basics of Data

Many of the companies we talk to think they are using data to enhance their operations, but often this isn’t the case. Data is the raw material which powers companies. But this data needs to be unified to provide a true and full picture of your business, from your processes to your customers.

For example, say your customer is Dave Jones. Your customer may appear as Dave Jones, David Jones, D. Jones in three different systems, but which is the right one right now? That question is key for building a 360-degree view of your customer.

The challenges come when each department, communication channel or region has their own piece of Dave’s customer profile and therefore their own view into Dave as a customer. These different systems have the same person represented (potentially under different names) and that information needs to be brought together and unified to improve interactions.

Reconciling and merging these records through master data management creates a single view of the customer. Every field is evaluated, matched and merged into one trusted record of Dave Jones for every department to see.

A New Frontier – Adapting to the Future of Data

As we move through the 21st Century, new technologies are changing the way we, as consumers, interact with the world. Electric and hydrogen cars are on the increase, as is renewable energy with technology such as Solar, Biomass etc. In other words, data is no longer only coming from traditional oilfields. 

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors means that almost everything we use as domestic consumers and in business will be connected to the internet, sending data to cloud-based systems, providing data reserves on a vast scale.

As CIOs we need to think about where the new data is coming from and how our approach needs to change to refine and use the data from traditional and emerging sources to ensure continued relevancy.

Once you have a trusted, single view of your customer and data sources, you can expand to embrace new and changing technologies to get true value from your data reserves. With the basics in place, you can continue to build on the 360-degree view to deliver greater operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

This article has been written by Kevin Carrick and Dave Jones. Connect with them on LinkedIn to discuss all things data.

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