There is an increasing interest in data. Big Data is a concrete manifestation, but also just the tip of the iceberg. In general, there is an increasing amount of data, both within organizations as well as in the world as a whole. Information Technology (IT) has been an important catalyst in the explosion of data; by automating processes and information flows, data is increasingly born digitally.
Data has not received enough attention in the past. I am not just talking about data with extreme volumes, variety, or velocity. I am talking about the data that organizations already have, but which they are not sufficiently aware of. Organizations are generally organized into silos and data is often concealed within departments. The applications that manage this data are only accessible to a limited number of people.
The problem does not only apply to structured data; a lot of the data is locked in documents. Just try to find something in the increasingly expanding sea of digital documents. It is good to have a document management system. In practice, the compartmentalization of the organization is also visible in such a system. Each department has its own ‘site,’ and even if you can find it, you probably cannot access it because you do not have the proper authorizations.
We should therefore take a fresh look at data, both within the organization and across the boundaries of the organization. Let’s start by making clear what data is available inside and outside of the organization. Based on that, we should have a dialogue about what the value of this data is, and what opportunities it generates. Data is often valuable in places where it is not created. Data can help to streamline existing processes, but can also provide new insights.
So the question becomes, when is it clear which data is more broadly applicable and requires special care? Investments are needed to ensure the discoverability, understandability, availability, and reliability of the data. This means that responsibilities should be appointed, processes defined, and systems made available to disclose the data. When valuable data is available outside the organization, the usage of it should be made possible and necessary agreements with data providers should be made.
Explicitly exposing previously hidden data is good, but it is also running after the facts. It would be much better if data is discoverable, understandable, available, and reliable from the start. These ideas are also present in concepts such as open data and linked data. Organizations should therefore embrace these concepts and their implications. Instead of thinking in terms of processes, applications, and services, the data itself should be central. This would create a whole new world of opportunities.