Creating a data value proposition

There is no disputing that, in the knowledge economy, data is the fuel for generating insight and growth. However, the possibility remains that this importance has been holding back many organisations by prompting them to put every byte in primary storage facilities where security and recovery are at their highest levels; as is the cost. By accepting that not all data is created equal, and then classifying and handling it appropriately, you can release budget for new IT projects dedicated to growing the organisation.

The number one information challenge for organisations is to start discovering and realising the value of data, and not just its cost.

CIOs are guardians of a company’s data. It’s understandable that, in the past, regulatory constraints and an indiscriminate approach to information from the business have given CIO’s little opportunity to do anything other than treat all data as the same. Now, though, the challenge is for organisations is to get a true understanding of the business value and business potential of the data they have. This will enable the CIO to devise a strategy where more budget is allocated to protecting valuable data and less in to information which is, or has become, less valuable.

Making priorities

To get a true picture of the value of data, organisations should look to consider adopting a strategy through which information can be classified automatically, and perhaps manually, at the point of creation. Systems can be put in place that not only prioritise the long term protection of the most valuable data but also anticipate when its value will reduce. This can help reduce the data an organisation focuses its business on as well as reducing costs through more efficient management of data.

While most organisations put most or all their data in their primary facility, many find that, as a very rough average, only around 20 per cent or so will be really valuable.

Then there’s a tranche of 40 per cent to 60 per cent which is of moderate value and around, say, 20 per cent which is of very little value. The most valuable data should be prioritised for the primary storage facility while the least valuable could even be deleted. This not only frees up storage space and budget but also helps an organisation steer its enterprise intelligence onto the information most likely to provide significant insights.

Data first

Tools and consultancy services are available to help an organisation devise a strategy which brings down the overall cost of storage and protection by prioritising value above volume. Rather than think about infrastructure and how data would fit in, the reverse approach needs to be adopted, where information requirements dictate infrastructure.

It is not well known that not all CIOs know the true value of their data. Rather than focusing on infrastructure to store all data, there’s an opportunity to reverse the priorities and focus on the data that needs to be kept, acquiring infrastructure to store that.

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Cloud solutions

Fortunately as you get to grips with determining value, and not treating all data as equal, there are cloud services available which take out much of the set up and maintenance cost of data management systems. Again, though, it means first knowing the value and sensitivity of data before considering the cloud.

Cloud services are a wonderful way of setting up ‘green field’ projects which don’t have to impact on what you’ve already done, giving you a clean sheet of paper.

Now, you obviously wouldn’t put your most valuable secrets unprotected on a public, third party cloud today, but you could set up a secure, private cloud. For your least valuable data, you could well decide a public cloud option is fine.

The really revealing part of all of this is that some organisations may start out feeling they don’t know for certain where true value lies in their data. Unlike someone such as Coca Cola, they may not know what their secret ingredients are. By going through this process of considering value and categorising data, the organisation can get a far clearer view of where its strengths lie.

Revising a data management policy around value, rather than treating all data as equal, can bring huge dividends. Not only can it help organisations, and their enterprise intelligence solutions, see the proverbial wood for the trees, and prioritise information accordingly, it can actually save budget and could even be self-financing. Perhaps, most importantly, it can help an organisation discover and utilise its most valuable data and so gain a competitive advantage.

About the author:

Liz Benison is UK and Ireland Regional President for CSC, a CIO Summit sponsor. You can read more of her articles here.

For more on data management, read Andy Hayler's CIO column