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What have water, oil and data got in common?

What have water, oil and data got in common?
Published: 10 July 2018


A recent article in The Economist named data “the oil of the digital era” in reference not only to its importance to global economies today, but the concern that – like the oil companies of yesteryear – the most valuable listed firms in the world are all data giants.

Wayne Borcher, COO of data specialist SSA believes that, just as humans would die without water, industries today would suffer great losses without data. “We know the impact of both water and oil on our economies,” he says, “but few are aware of the sheer power and money that data drives. In this digital age, he who has the most control of data is king.”

This is apparent by the net profit of the combined Big Five - Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet – in Q1 2017 of US$25-billion. But it doesn’t stop there, according to Forbes Magazine, which noted in July 2018 that Big Data market revenues are projected to increase from $42-billion in 2018 to $103-bilion in 2027.

“SSA has long said that companies are often not as aware of the value of their data as they should be,” says Borcher. “To stay competitive, though, they’re going to have to be aware very quickly that their competitors know that value. Just as trying to create a new Facebook would be exceptionally difficult, coming second in the race for your specific clients’ data will not open the doors your data should.”

Venture company NewVantage Partners produced a report in early 2017 that showed Big Data is delivering the key value to organisations by lowering their expenses (49.2%) and creating new avenues for innovation and disruption (44.3%).

“While not every enterprise is innovative and disruptive, we find that success often lies with those who use disruptive or innovative methods in an industry where it hasn’t been used before. It’s like the man who made his money during the gold rush by selling shovels, rather than panning for gold,” Borcher says.

The impact of analysis

Here’s where things get interesting: No matter what type of data you hold, it’s merely information in your system until you analyse it and put to work only the data that benefits your business now or in the future. “Analysis is the flowing water of data,” Borcher comments. “It’s vital to giving your data life and enabling it to reach places your company couldn’t reach in the past.”

China’s Social Sciences Academic Press and Statista predict that advanced analytics and Big Data revenue in China are projected to be worth $9-billion by 2020. In looking at the retail industry, for example, data has driven the sector’s makeover by enabling greater precision in localisation than there has ever been.

Says Borcher: “Once analysed, data provides organisations with the opportunity to make far faster and better business decisions and to target campaigns to specific users in precise locations. Imagine how much of the old cold-calling that cuts out? With internet, smartphones and wearables generating millions of gigabytes of data every minute, the opportunities for monetising that data are endless.

“The important thing to note here, however, is that where companies used to sell their data on, the regulations that apply globally are designed to keep people’s personal information safe. You can use data to the point that your customers and the law allows you to, but you are legally and ethically obliged to ensure its safety.”

This is one of the reasons, Borcher notes, that having expert assistance throughout your data journey is essential. “Your core business is not data – but data can drive it. For you to focus on growing your business using data means creating a team that will ensure your smooth passage into the roaring digital economy.”