Davos and Data – Please Don’t Forget the Basics!!

The annual World Economic Forum recently ended in Davos (one year, I WILL get an invitation to attend this!!).  Those of you who follow my Twitter feed know that data was a big topic at the WEF this year. There were several sessions on the topic, and a report titled “Big Data, Big Impact: New Possibilities for International Development” was released.  The report focuses specifically on the impact the collection and proper application of big data (particularly from mobile devices) can have on financial services, education, agriculture and health care.

Yesterday, the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies released its list of top 10 emerging technologies for 2012.  Number one on that list is Informatics for adding value to information, which the Council further explained as:

“The quantity of information now available to individuals and organizations is unprecedented in human history, and the rate of information generation continues to grow exponentially. Yet, the sheer volume of information is in danger of creating more noise than value, and as a result limiting its effective use. Innovations in how information is organized, mined and processed hold the key to filtering out the noise and using the growing wealth of global information to address emerging challenges.”

Informatics beat out some very cool scientific areas such as synthetic biology, nanoscale design of materials, and high energy density power systems. Data has gone mainstream.

In everyone’s rush to jump on the ‘big data’ bandwagon, the ‘informatics’ bandwagon, the ‘unstructured data’ bandwagon, there are foundational items that need to addressed if organizations are going to see the kinds of payoffs they should be having, or if this becomes added to the list of trendy things that didn’t work out.

#1 – Have a plan. An enterprise information management strategy is absolutely necessary. Your business has a strategic plan (hopefully). There is no way any business today can operate or innovate without using and leveraging data, so there should be a plan around the capture, usage, maintenance, distribution, security, and disposition of your corporate data assets.

#2 – Someone should have ultimate responsibility and authority for data. This is not the CIO. This is not the CTO. This is not the IT team. This is someone who is charged with the responsibility of managing data from the enterprise perspective who represents the business, who sits on the executive leadership team, who makes the executive decisions, and who’s ass is on the line for the overall quality, integrity, and optimization of those data assets.

#3 – There must be an investment in data. This investment should be in the form of people, dollars, training, and technology.

If the foundational items aren’t done, what your company will have is still a bunch of siloed data of questionable quality – you’ll just have more of it.

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