Are you treating your data as an asset?

The best thing you can do is encourage a culture that is data-focused, one that realizes the importance of security and privacy, as well as understanding that data is crucial to your organization’s success

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It’s a phrase we constantly hear, isn’t it? Data is a crucial business asset from which we can extract value and gain competitive advantage. Those who use data well will be the success stories of the future.

This got me thinking: If data is such a major asset, why do we hear so many stories about data leaks? Would these companies be quite so loose with other assets? You don’t hear about businesses losing hundreds of company cars or half a dozen buildings, do you?

If data is a potential asset, why aren’t companies treating it as such?

The reality is many businesses don’t treat data as an asset. In fact, it’s treated so badly there is increasing regulation forcing organizations to take better care of it. These external pressures have the potential to provide significant benefits, forcing a change in the way data is viewed across organizations from top to bottom. Forcing data to be treated as the asset it is.

If you can start to treat data as an asset, you can put yourself in a position where data really can provide a competitive advantage.

Where to start?

Clean up the mess

Do you have too little data in your organization? Probably not. In data discussion groups, a common refrain is that companies “have too much” and “it’s out of control.” Organizations are spending more and more resources on storing, protecting and securing it, but it’s not only the cost of keeping data that’s a problem. Tightening regulation will force you to clean up what you have.

It’s not an asset if you just keep collecting it and never do the housekeeping and maintenance that you should with any asset. If you don’t look after it, you will find it very difficult to realize value.

Your starting point is to ask yourself what you have, why you have it, and why you need it.

Gain some control

I talk regularly with people about the what, where, who and why of data. Understanding this will allow you to start to gain control of your asset.

Once it’s decided what your organization should have—and what you should be keeping—you need to understand exactly what you do have and, importantly, where it is stored: in data centers on laptops, on mobile devices or with cloud providers.

Next, the who and why. What other business asset does your company own that you wouldn’t know who’s using it and why? Yet companies seem to do this with data all the time. Look inside your own organization: Do you have a full understanding of who’s accessing your data…and why?

To treat our data like an asset, it’s crucial to understand how our data is been treated.

Build it the right home

As with any asset, data needs the right environment in which to thrive. Your organization no doubt offers decent working conditions for your employees, has a parking lot, provides regular maintenance for your car fleets and so on, doesn’t it? The same should be true for your data.

Consider your data strategy. Is it focused on the storage, media type or a particular vendor? Or are you building a modern, forward-thinking strategy focused on the data itself, and not the technology. This includes looking at how to ensure data is never siloed, can be placed in the right repository as needed, and can move seamlessly between repositories—be they on-prem, in the cloud or elsewhereyou’re your data always available? Can it be recovered quickly?

Build a strategy with a focus on the asset itself: the data.

Be ready to put it to work

To truly treat data as an asset, be prepared to sweat it like you would any other. If you can apply the things I’ve mentioned—cleanse it, gain control of it, have a data-focused strategy and have the right data in the right place—you can start to take advantage of tools that will allow you to gain value from it.

The ability to apply data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data techniques to your assets allows you to not only understand your data better, but to begin to learn things from your data that you’d never previously been aware of…which is the most exciting opportunity data presents you.

Culture

All the above said, perhaps the best thing you can do for your data is to encourage a culture that is data-focused, one that realizes the importance of security and privacy, as well as understanding that data is crucial to your organization’s success.

If you can encourage and drive that cultural shift, there is every chance that your data will be treated as the asset it truly is—and you and your organization will be well-placed to reap the rewards that taking care of your data can bring.

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