Data is quickly becoming the currency by which business is carried out across the world. 1 Billion GB of data is created globally every day. This isn't all good - information overload costs businesses something in the range of $800B a year in lost employee productivity and innovation.
A lot of this data is external to the organizations collecting it - it comes from suppliers, customers, investors, etc. Much of that growth is being felt using fairly traditional technologies. Email is a good example - it continues to grow at a surprising rate (more than 4% annually) and in 2017 there were already nearly 270 billion emails sent and received.
As clear as it is that getting a handle on data is now a key to business success, many organizations around the world are simply lost when it comes to sourcing, analyzing, organizing and storing data. They just don't know where to look or - even if they do - they don't know where to start, or how to progress through a coherent process once they get moving.
It is vitally important that your business doesn't fall behind when it comes to collecting the right data, the right way, so here are a few things to consider as you ponder your own company's evolving data management strategy:
1. Data is a conversation. The information you're collecting is useless without context, and context is impossible without communication. Think about the way we as humans learn language - we hear and see the adults around us talking within our homes, our cars, our shopping centers, all as this living backdrop. No one throws the letters of the alphabet at babies and expects them to make sense of it.
Data is similar, but perhaps even more sensitive. In the chemicals industry, for example, data collection is fundamental to the compliance process, but most of the industry is suffering from an almost total lack of processes to manage it. Suppliers are getting bombarded with requests for information - some of it is proprietary - and most of these requests are from other customers. This makes it difficult to see much benefit in responding, which is a shame because (as we’ll see), there are benefits.
2. There is a lot of potential for this process to add value for everyone involved. Suppliers, for example, can differentiate themselves from their competitors by being ready for the inevitable requests with organized, accurate, "packaged" data. One of our customers uses the supplier data collection process as a "naughty and nice" list so she can reward the "good guys" and demote the bad ones. The nice list is full of people and companies that give her what she needs in a timely and digestible manner.
But to do things like this it is essential that you be organized, and that you have a quality control system to make sure you're getting top-of-the-line data that you can rely upon. If you do manage to operate this way, you'll be accumulating knowledge rather than information. This will help you not only with your surface-level goals (like gathering compliance data) but with the intelligence you gain by gathering it.
3. You should try to have fun with it. Believe it or not, data collection and management can be enjoyable. Sure, the right tools help achieve that, and it's generally easier to have fun when you're the king of the hill and not the poor subject of the king's whims. But remember, it's a conversation. Whether you're the requestor or the requestee, you have an opportunity to build on your relationships with your customers and/or suppliers and - in so doing - to lay the foundation for your own knowledge base that will actually add measurable value to your business, usually sooner than you think.