I had a fascinating inquiry this morning with a government securities commission (not the SEC and not in the US). The client had a classic question about how to navigate the new data economy. The commission produces and consumes large volumes of data but continue to struggle to answer persistent business questions like how well they are doing or even who they are doing it for. Yes, securities commissions regulate securities markets; they monitor publically traded companies, investment houses, and brokerage firms. Howevver they continue to ask, “for whom?” Who are the investors that they are protecting with their regulation? As they expressed the question, “How do we know what Mrs. Smith is investing in?” They currently work with several large data providers who provide financial information on companies but that information wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Essentially, in this Age of the Customer, they want to know who their “customers” are. This was a question about how to best serve their customers, in this case the investors.
They wanted to know how to source additional third-party data that would give them a clearer picture of the investors that they are serving. Census data provides a wealth of information about households and individual finances. But the data teams at the commission are not experts in navigating census data. Data providers like Thompson-Reuters provide data on the financial services industry. Others such as Experian or Acxiom provide information on consumers. What kinds of other data providers can help them with their data strategy to answer that basic question of how to better serve their customers, and who they are?
An explosion of data is revolutionizing business practices. The availability of new data sources and delivery models provides unprecedented insights into customer and partner behavior and enables much improved capacity to understand and optimize business processes and operations. Real time data allows companies to fine tune inventories and in-store product placement; it allows restaurants to know what a customer will order, even before they read the menu or reach the counter. And, data is also the foundation for new services offerings for companies like John Deere or BMW or Starwood.
Last month, GovLabs, a research organization at New York University released a beta version of its Open Data 500 project. The study set out to profile US companies that use open data to generate new business and develop new products and services. Not all of the companies identified have been profiled but the list of 500 provides a wide range of both existing companies and start-ups that benefit from the use of open data.
While the start-ups are interesting illustrations of innovation and economic value-creation, the presence of big, existing companies illustrates how data transforms business.
Insurance companies such as AllState and Allianz no longer only insure people and property.
As an analyst on Forrester's Customer Insight's team, I spend a lot of time counseling clients on best-practice customer data usage strategies. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there is no such thing as a 360-degree view of the customer.
Here's the cold, hard truth: you can't possibly expect to know your customer, no matter how much data you have, if all of that data 1) is about her transactions with YOU and you 2) is hoarded away from your partners. And this isn't just about customer data either -- it's about product data, operational data, and even cultural-environmental data. As our customers become more sophisticated and collaborative with each other ("perpetually connected"), so organizations must do the same. That means sharing data, creating collaborative insight, and becoming willing participants in open data marketplaces.
Now, why should you care? Isn't it kind of risky to share your hard-won data? And isn't the data you have enough to delight your customers today? Sure, it might be. But I'd put money on the fact that it won't be for long, because digital disruptors are out there shaking up the foundations of insight and analytics, customer experience, and process improvement in big ways. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Every company generates data that would be of significant value to its customers, partners and potential partners; information that could be combined with insights from this ecosystem, public data and other sources to generate significant new discoveries, products and business values. But making our data available, easily consumable and getting payback for sharing it are significant hurdles.
Over many years we have built up an ever-more complex web of security, legal and data management practices that make it nearly impossible to share valuable info between companies in an open marketplace style – which is exactly what is needed to open up this value.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a new approach that leading enterprises and governments are taking today that is significantly simpler, more manageable and empowers companies to share their key data more freely, opening up massive new market opportunities for all. Here's how a few Forrester clients are taking advantage of this new model:
Banks have a reputation for being stodgy and conservative. But Credit Agricole (CA) has broken the stereotype. I had a great discussion a few weeks ago with Bernard Larrivière, Director of Innovation, and Emmanuel Methivier, the CA Store Manager, about the CA Store launched last fall. The store houses new services developed by third-party developers using the bank’s secure customer data — one small step for CA, one giant step for the banking industry and the data economy.
The CA Store was not only inspired by the Apple Store model but also by government open data initiatives. The public sector provided the model of exposing APIs to internal data and working with independent developers to encourage application creation. However, in a move that will likely be carefully watched by their public sector brethren, CA recognized the need for a better business model to incent developers to use the data, and to sustain the development and maintenance of the applications.
. . . Nor has it ever really been. Government data has long been a part of strategic business analysis. Census data provides insights into local standards of living and household budgets, health needs, education levels, and other factors that influence buying patterns for all kinds of goods and services. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the International Labour Organization provide data on employment and the availability of skilled labor that helps inform decisions on where to locate manufacturing or other facilities. The World Bank and UN data provides insights into global trends.
Moreover, the release of government data has itself spurred billion-dollar industries. Think weather data released in the 1970s by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – which gave birth to the weather industry and services like Accuweather, weather.com, wunderground, and newer services like ikitesurf.com’s “wind and where.” Data from the US Global Positioning System (GPS) was opened to civilian and commercial use in the 1980s and has given rise to thousands of location-based services. Think FourSquare, Yelp, and Where’s The Bus?
Eighteen months ago, when I started down the path of what would become our body of Personal Identity Management (PIDM) research, there were only a few customer intelligence professionals who gave much credence to the picture we were painting. What a difference a year makes. Today, privacy, data governance, consumer empowerment, and understanding "the creepy factor" are core to the conversations I have with CI pros in both marketer and vendor organizations.
At the center of those conversations is often the question, "Who are the players in tomorrow's consumer data ecosystem?" We've just published a report, Making Sense of a Fractured Consumer Data Ecosystem, that reviews the strengths and weaknesses of four existing vendor categories plus three emergent business models. These include:
Consumer data giants: Companies, like Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, and Infogroup, that have an opportunity to become consumer-friendly data managers but are at greatest regulatory risk
Reputation management providers: Companies, like Intelius and Reputation.com, that could help consumers manage data access but need to focus on their B2C business models to do so
Online services giants: Companies, like Google, MSN, and Yahoo, that already have access to highly personal data but serve too many masters