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8 Reasons Your Company Needs an Open Data Strategy

Emily Fullmer discusses the multitude of benefits that an open-data platform could provide for your company.


By Emily Fullmer

Data seems to like reinventing itself. We’re still in the midst of  ‘data’ becoming ‘big data’, while also coping and learning to capitalize on data as an asset class. And yet, we are faced with yet another simultaneous data revolution—the Open Data Economy. 

As a reader of the GreenBook blog, I know you either strive to be an innovator, or already are. For this reason, I urge you to consider exactly how the forthcoming restructuration of data will impact your firm, your competitors, and your value offering. As 2015 takes off, what will your Open Data Strategy be? Will your firm be proactive or reactive? You need a game plan. Here’s why: 

1) Data-as-a-service model

The entire concept of open data may seem counterintuitive to the private sector. Giving away data means giving up both earned and proprietary information, and putting it into the hands of competitors. But opening up your data portals doesn’t mean you have to open up all the floodgates—consider using your most basic data as a ‘hook’ for attracting new clients. SaaS business models are thriving by offering subscription and ‘freemium’ pricing models. Why shouldn’t it apply to data providers as well? The concept of data-as-a-service will become increasingly applicable to businesses that capitalize on merging government data with their own proprietary information.

2) Crowdsourced solutions

Crowdsourcing platforms have recently proven their value in a variety of spaces. For data, the possibilities of crowd-sourced solutions are endless. Platforms like Kaggle are bringing together self-proclaimed data scientists and hard-to-crack data sets. Organizations such as GE, Expedia, and Liberty Mutual sponsor challenges backed by cash rewards. In response to a challenge being posted, as many as 1,300 teams submit their predictive models.

The solutions being created are faster, more innovative, and of higher quality because an entire world of data scientists is being tapped, rather than a single department, individual, or algorithm. Crowd-sourced solutions should have a prominent role in your open data strategy, but the extent will depend on exactly how much information you’re willing to share.

3) Attract higher quality talent

When predictive models and solutions are submitted through crowdsourcing platforms, quality talent sets itself apart from the pack quickly. Instead of chasing the best and brightest, and then gambling on their expertise, why not let them identify themselves?  By attracting talent through this method, you can avoid the cost of hiring a full-time team and acquire the winning individual(s) before the competition discovers them. 

4) Contribution to a more efficient economy

It needs to be clear what the Open Data economy is and is not. It is an ecosystem, where every stakeholder benefits in some form. It is not Data Philanthropy (a noble cause, but a smaller concept within the whole mentioned below). By making your data public in some form, the entire ecosystem becomes more efficient, and thus, more profitable. McKinsey & Co estimates that there is approximately $3 trillion USD in “potential annual value enabled by open data in seven ‘domains’”. That’s a figure that would make anyone into a believer.

5) Better storytelling

A subset within the Open Data Economy is Data Philanthropy—the UN describes the neologism as “a new form of partnership in which private sector companies share data for public benefit”. It might not be the most glamorous way to give back, but sharing seemingly useless data sets could have profound social benefits. The UN cites, “academic researchers have shown how cell-phone location data was used to understand how human travel affects the spread of malaria in Kenya, while mining of anonymized Yahoo! email messages provided a detailed view of international migration rates.” Anecdotes such as these lead to far better material for compelling and organic press. And by capitalizing on your current assets and internal digital humanitarians, there’s no need to waste resources on campaigns that often negate the credibility of intentions.

6) Rejuvenation of innovation

In the MR space, innovation and tech often go hand in hand. At conferences like IIeX, we are often drawn towards the disruptors who have tangible, foreign technologies. We sometimes forget that innovation doesn’t always have to be hi-tech. By leveraging this new economy, innovation can emerge in the most unlikely of partners and situations if you allow yourself to be found through your data. 

7) Leadership positioning

Buying your way to the top of the thought ladder is becoming a thing of the past. Take a proactive role in accepting and understanding the open data ecosystem landscape. Strategize and position yourself within it now. What value will you be offering? What value will you seek? Early adopters will be rewarded through both value and leadership status. 

8) Unlock new value

It’s time to dust off our old data sets, and realize we have a hoarding problem. What’s the point of sitting on old data, while it depreciates in value? By sharing and publicizing the analysis and trends of the data you own, you open yourself up to others who may have complementary data that allows both entities to create new value from old data.

Still not convinced? Take a look at the McKinsey and Deloitte Open Data Reports for in-depth reads on the subject.

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4 responses to “8 Reasons Your Company Needs an Open Data Strategy

  1. You make great points, Emily. And these tie in well to the trends that are highlighted in recent posts by Lenny Murphy as more platform companies become MRX companies, meaning industry players need to find new ways to do things, add newer and more rich value added offerings, and even find new ways to use data.

    Imran Anwar

  2. I like what you said about attracting higher quality talent. At first, I was skeptical about open data strategy, but now I’m more open to the idea. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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Emily Fullmer

Emily Fullmer

Director of Global Events, GreenBook