What is the most important asset in your organization? Your infrastructure? Your highly trained people? A specialized tool you've created? While any of these things might be your most important asset, it's important not to overlook the value of data in helping you create and achieve competitive advantage.


Now I must tell you, I've spent many years in corporate consulting. So I tend to hate phrases like "create competitive advantage." However in this instance, capturing and using data to better understand your own business and external environment can help set your enterprise apart from those companies that are sans a clue.

But first it takes a shift in mindset in treating data as a valuable asset. Data captured by retailers, airlines, financial firms and others is not listed as an "asset" on the company balance sheet. Data, unless you actually pay to purchase it, isn't a current asset like inventory or a fixed asset such as land, furniture or an item that depreciates.

Instead, your good accountant will tell you that data is an intangible asset that falls in the category of intellectual property, goodwill, patents and the like. Because data is intangible it's often overlooked as a valued asset–especially by your financial teams.

However, companies all over the world are starting to understand the power of data, and how to leverage it to, as Thomas Davenport calls it, "compete on analytics."

In fact, we're entering an era where more companies are actively managing and using data to make timely and relevant decisions about customers, suppliers, products, partners and business trends. The ability to collect, analyze and act on data is helping companies as diverse as Harrah's, Norwich Union, Continental Airlines and others drive differentiation.

There seems to be a barrier however to treating data as a corporate asset. Too often data is locked down in corporate silo's, trapped on someone's laptop, stowed in spreadsheet, or managed in a departmental database. There's often little process for the "care and feeding" of data, ensuring its usefulness to an entire organization.

Let's put aside the business value of treating data as a valuable asset–there's also a regulatory compliance element. Companies are facing myriad compliance requirements from Sarbanes Oxley, Patriot Act, HIPAA and others. I'd hate to be the CFO signing off on financial statements when I knew my data wasn't as fresh, clean and accurate as it could be.

If you recognize that your data is indeed a very valuable corporate asset, what are some the barriers you're encountering to ensuring its usefulness–not just to your marketing department, but your entire organization?

Marketing consultants, what are you doing to alert your clients to the value of data, to understand customers better than your competition?

Is your organization using the power of analytics to compete more effectively against incoming and entrenched competitors? If so, how?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.