It’s as if companies have always been confronted with an exponential growth of data.

Statista estimates that 97 zettabytes of data will be created in 2022, compared to 79 in 2021 and only 2 in 2010. By 2025, the figure is expected to reach 181 zettabytes.

However, despite this growth, the way data is used and stored has remained largely the same. Data can be difficult to access and using it seems daunting. As a result, there is huge potential that remains untapped.

This has led to a real chasm between the data available internally that could be used to benefit businesses and the positive impact it has in reality. Information remains submerged in stagnant data lakes when it could instead deliver value to the teams that need it most – a mindset shift is urgently needed.

Companies should apply the same thought process to data that they would apply to a product. This means that it should be presented appropriately and accompanied by compelling messages to create a sense of desire among potential end users.

Owners must be designated for different types of data, with the mission of optimizing them, selling them (internally and/or externally) and creating a roadmap for their use. These owners must also consider the “reputation” of their data with relevant stakeholders. As with products and services, a promoter’s net score for data can serve as a useful indicator of its current performance.

By applying product thinking to data in small agile increments through the following 5 steps, we can bridge the gap between availability and tangible value.

  1. Encourage conversations

Closing the data chasm starts with effective communication. The initial conversation should focus on appointing an appropriate “data product owner” or “data owner” for particular datasets. It doesn’t have to be a formal position to begin with – it could fall under the remit of a Data Manager or CFO, for example.

Key to the role of a data product manager is bringing relevant business leaders together in a room (or virtual space) to explore the potential value of data. Activation campaigns should also be launched to create awareness of the data and its capabilities throughout the organization. Start these conversations by offering an offer like, “If we gave you information about X, what could you potentially do with it?” How could this help you? »

  1. Build stakeholder enthusiasm

The next step is to build hype about the potential of data, just like you would with any other product. Exciting and ideally profitable case studies that demonstrate how data has benefited other teams and departments can be invaluable in promoting data and securing interest.

  1. Decentralize data ownership

As companies grow, the number of data applications can grow into the hundreds – then it becomes impossible for a central data team of four or five engineers to effectively maintain them all. Backlogs will build up, causing frustration, delays and disappointments on all sides.

To avoid this situation, companies such as Saxo Bank and Netflix have successfully implemented platforms that provide tools, frameworks and systems for people on the fringes to self-publish their data through a centralized infrastructure in self-service.

This can be done by department and on an ongoing basis, starting with conversations about how easy it can be for team members to enter their data into a central template. As these projects succeed, they can then be used to secure other teams on board – similar to a franchise business model.

  1. Prevent data hoarding

While data protection legislation such as GDPR has created many good practices, it has also produced an unintended culture of data control. Some employees have become reluctant to share data, even for legitimate reasons, and in some organizations data storage has become a status symbol where power dynamics come into play.

This attitude is a brake on progress. Data governance should be about empowerment wherever possible and sharing information with the right people, for the right purpose. Appointing data stewards (either as a formal role or as an informal “cap”) can help with this. Such a role should give equal weight to protecting data and unlocking its value.

  1. Encourage the use of data

Even if all the data your organization has is available for legitimate use, employees must want to interact with it or all your efforts and investments will be wasted. This step is also about creating a cultural shift – a shift in which the benefits of data access become apparent and people are afraid of missing out on the improvements data could bring to them in their daily roles.

The best way to instill this attitude is to implement it at the leadership level and allow it to permeate the organization from there. Data use should be part of goal setting. Senior leaders should be accountable for demonstrating the impact of data on their annual results and KPIs.

With all of this in place, data will soon be appreciated for the competitive advantages it can provide, and the results will begin to flow. It’s time to empty the data lake.


About the Author

As Director of Enterprise Data at Kin + Carta Europe, Rob Wadsworth helps large organizations unlock the potential of data, through product thinking and IT data governance, on modern data platforms. Rob is passionate about implementing data as a product in the enterprise environment. Prior to Kin + Carta, Robert worked at Co-op, where he helped transform enterprise data capabilities as Head of Data Platforms and Engineering.