Industry Associations have a unique opportunity to become data co-ops: Doug Laney, Distinguished Analyst, Gartner

Doug Laney is a Technology visionary and is famous for giving the world the three Vs of big data (Volume, Variety, Velocity) way back in 2001. The thought was clearly ahead of its time even before Facebook and Google came onto the global stage with their impressive scale out architectures embraced by Enterprise IT to drive their big data capabilities. Today Doug Laney is a VP and Distinguished Analyst with Gartner's Chief Data Officer Research team. Mr. Laney covers data strategy, Infonomics (the economics of information) for Gartner clients. He is on a mission to spread the message of Infonomics and to fasten its distribution has also authored a book titled “Infonomics”.

Sangram Aglave, Contributing Editor, Businessworld caught up with Doug to understand how contemporary organizations and governments can apply Infonomics to their Enterprise Analytics strategy.

  1. Is Data a Knife and does it require regulation? 

I see data not as the knife, but more as a limitless jar of marmalade that the knife can spread all over one's toast, and the toast of others! The knife is merely hardware and infrastructure. Of course, regulations are required for the safe handling and use of information--just as they are with any other asset. Unfortunately, because information is not considered an asset by the accounting profession, most organizations fail to treat it with the same consideration and discipline as their balance sheet assets. 

  1. How to determine data ownership? What are the pros and cons of centralized and decentralized ownership models? 

There are two definitions of data ownership. One is internal. That is, who within the organization is responsible and accountable for an information asset? I like the concept but not the moniker, "owner", which perpetuates notions of data hoarding and a multitude of data silos. I much prefer the word "trustee" which carries the same kinds of responsibilities without the stigma. The second definition of data ownership is a legal one. Unfortunately, the courts around the world have not regularly supported applying property laws to data. Therefore, questions of legal ownership boil down to those of control and rights instead. My Infonomics book includes a chapter on this conundrum.  

  1. Is the value of data variable or constant? How does your Infonomic model account for these fluctuations?

The value of information, just like any other asset--even currency--fluctuates and is contextual. So, while it's difficult to establish a hard-and-fast value for any given information asset, one can use valuation models such as those I have posited to compare relative and situational valuations. Moreover, these models can be used to track the improvement or degradation of an information asset's value over time. 

  1. How do you differentiate between data democracy and information secularism within an Enterprise? 

I don't differentiate the two. I don't think they're mutually exclusive. Certainly, increased data democratization/egalitarianism should lead to a business culture of secularism (increased reliance on facts). This is part of the theory and impetus behind self-service analytics. As I suggested above, I believe an information asset should be "owned" by the enterprise, not by any individual or department. As for external democratization, sharing data publicly--called "open data"--can be of certain benefit to organizations, but doing so doesn't come without a raft of challenges and risks. 

  1. Would you advocate Enterprises to be part of data co-operatives and federations? Is it sustainable for e.g. a collaborative commons Test and Measurement data co-op for mobile network performance?

Yes, I would absolutely support organizations becoming part of data sharing consortia. As they say: a rising tide lifts all ships. Moreover, as I write about in the book, we're starting to see the emergence of extended information ecosystems among business partners. There are economies of scale and of efficiency to be had from co-managing certain information assets. Many industry associations have been dabbling in this for decades. 


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