Exploring The Data Economy Opportunity: Some Do's and Don'ts

An inquiry call from a digital strategy agency advising a client of theirs on data commercialization generated a lively discussion on strategies for taking data to market.  With few best practices out there, the emerging opportunity just might feel like space exploration – going boldly where no man has gone before.  The question is increasingly common. "We know we have data that would be of use to others but how do we know?  And, which use cases should we pursue?" In It's Time To Take Your Data To Market published earlier this fall, my colleagues and I provided some guideance on identifying and commercializing that "Picasso in the attic."  But the ideas around how to go-to-market continue to evolve. 

In answer to the inquiry questions asked the other day, my advice was pretty simple: Don’t try to anticipate all possible uses of the data.  Get started by making selected data sets available for people to play with, see what it can do, and talk about it to spread the word.  However, there are some specific use cases that can kick-start the process. 

Look to your existing customers.

The grass is not always greener, and your existing clients might just provide some fertile ground.  A couple thoughts on ways your existing customers could use new data sources:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: Target existing analytics use cases, but do it better.  Most companies are already using data to make strategic planning decisions or to optimize operational processes. Where should our chain build a new restaurant? How can we reduce travel time for our delivery drivers?  New sources could provide better insights and you might have data that could influence the outcome of those decisions. Same use case, better data for better insights.
  • Don’t stray too far from home: Allow existing customers to share and compare. Another use case is around comparative analytics.  Companies want to know how much they spend – but they are also interested in how much others spend.  Comparative spend analytics is in demand, and other B2B enterprises are beginning to offer that data as a service.  As we mentioned in our recent report, Predictions 2015: The Data Economy Goes Mainstream, LexisNexis now offers analytics and benchmarking as part of its enterprise legal management software. Customers opt in to sharing their spend data with others on the promise of comparing across users. Other vendors will adopt the model.  

Embrace the data economy ecosystem.

Fortunately there are several options for partnership. You don’t necessarily have to go it alone.  Here are a couple of options for partnering to get your data to market:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: Partner with analytics vendors. As we predicted in our recent predictions report,  the question “would you like some data with that?” will become a common refrain.  Analytics vendors have already begun. The recently announced IBM and Twitter partnership bundles analytics software, consulting staff, and a fire hose of Tweets.  But another announcement that hasn’t gotten as much press illustrates the broader trend.  A provider of data discovery, visualization and business intelligence tools, Qlik, acquired DataMarket, an aggregator and marketplace for data. The package of analytics and data really does mean that the data economy – and the insights provided by external data – will go mainstream.
  • Don’t ignore aggregators: Explore all channels to market. Selling through existing aggregator is always an option – from the more traditional aggregators known for their wealth of consumer data (Experian, Axciom) to newer aggregators and discovery portals (Infochimps, Quandl, datahub, enigma) to vertically specialized aggregators (IMS Health).  Making data available to developers and others via a data market such as Microsoft Azure Data Market is another option. 
  • Don’t hold your data too tight: Partner with open data programs. Don’t underestimate the open data opportunities as a means of increasing the visibility of your data.The open data movement has generated enormous amounts of data on health, energy, public safety, education, and government spending, and an enormous amount of interest in using the data.  Government organizations promote the use of their data through hackathons that attract civic-minded developers and data hungry entrepreneurs.  Sponsorship of an open data hackathon with a freemium sampling of your data to illustrate how it can be used would increase the awareness of your offer. The new Open Data Network launched by Socrata offers a open data community to those interested in participating. Commercial vendors and service providers have already signed on.

My recent report, Find A Partner To The Data Dance, explores some additional options for getting data to market.