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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Corporate Data, Not Big Data, Is Where the Value Is

Why a measured, strategic approach to capitalizing on your data may be just what your enterprise needs.

Is it good business to chase chimeras? Silicon Valley's hyper-narrative would have you believe that it is, but for most mortals, improving on what exists is the path to success. Data is one area in which this is resoundingly true.

The issue at hand is the tension between having a big data strategy versus having a corporate data strategy. In a perfect world, both could not only coexist but, in fact, be self-reinforcing. In a world of limited resources or energies, however, practical decisions have to be made and the payoff has to come in a relatively short period.

For Further Reading:

Small Is Beautiful: The Value of Structured Data

Data by Itself May Not Be Enough

Forget Big Data -- Find the Right Data

The promises of big data are, indeed, incredible. The idea that organizations can instantly avail themselves of the world's information and wisdom in order to make smarter, quicker, and increasingly profitable decisions is exciting. The notion that consumers can be served with unerring genius and that businesses can waste no effort is powerful, even intoxicating. It's a dream to swim with mermaids, but not a sensible proposition. So, too, it is with the canonical renditions of big data.

Enter corporate data. The "here and now" data assets in organizations are more valuable than most understand. Thirty years of investment in corporate systems, in failures and successes, and in customer, partner, and product interactions at scale have created a vast ocean (some call it a lake) of data that -- if waded through -- yields real, tangible treasures.

Capitalizing on Corporate Data

I am not implying that making the most of corporate data is easy. Building the right data infrastructure is key. Core characteristics of a mature data infrastructure are that it is agile, secure, compliant, and governed. Although technology decisions are critical here, these characteristics must extend to process, people, and culture as well.

Corporate data infrastructure maturity (CDIM) is a journey and requires commitment and resource expenditure. As such, in a world of finite resources, the decision to embark upon this journey might come into conflict with the big data journey that some pundits prescribe for all manner of organizations. We live in world of finite resources.

The CDIM journey is not easy, but it is possible with the innovations that have come to market over the last decade. With huge strides in databases and data models, visualization and democratization offerings, automation layers, and data education, organizations are poised to leverage their data assets intelligently.

The problems most organizations face are quotidian. How do we use data to improve sales or reduce churn? How do we use data to determine which products sell optimally in which markets? How do we use data to see what marketing content works with which audience? These questions are prosaic but the answers, if they come quickly and can be acted upon, are powerful.

Corporate data, when plumbed, reveals these answers. Process and culture, when honed, allow the organization to capitalize on the newfound knowledge to grow.

Data is a many-splendored thing. What has been called the "world's most valuable resource" is abundantly available to organizations; for most, a measured, strategic approach to the question How best do I capitalize on data? is the most sensible path.

About the Author

Romi Mahajan is director of Blueprint Consulting Services and CEO of The KKM Group, a strategy and advisory firm. In his career, he has spent the better part of a decade at Microsoft as is the Chairman of Data Infrastructure Partners. He can be reached via LinkedIn at

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