Open data is not just for startups

Mike Altendorf at CIO: “…Surely open data is just for start-ups, market research companies and people that want to save the world? Well there are two reasons why I wanted to dedicate a bit of time to the subject of open data. First, one of the major barriers to internal innovation that I hear about all the time is the inability to use internal data to inform that innovation. This is usually because data is deemed too sensitive, too complex, too siloed or too difficult to make usable. Leaving aside the issues that any of those problems are going to cause for the organisation more generally, it is easy to see how this can create a problem. So why not use someone else’s data?

The point of creating internal labs and innovation centres is to explore the art of the possible. I quite agree that insight from your own data is a good place to start but it isn’t the only place. You could also argue that by using your own data you are restricting your thinking because you are only looking at information that already relates to your business. If the point of a lab is to explore ideas for supporting the business then you may be better off looking outwards at what is happening in the world around you rather than inwards into the constrained world of the industry you already inhabit….

The fact is there is vast amounts of data sets that are freely available that can be made to work for you if you can just apply the creativity and technical smarts to them.

My second point is less about open data than about opening up data. Organisations collect information on their business operations, customers and suppliers all the time. The smart ones know how to use it to build competitive advantage but the really smart ones also know that there is significant extra value to be gained from sharing that data with the customer or supplier that it relates to. The customer or supplier can then use it to make informed decisions themselves. Some organisations have been doing this for a while. Customers of First Direct have been able to analyse their own spending patterns for years (although the data has been somewhat limited). The benefit to the customer is that they can make informed decisions based on actual data about their past behaviours and so adapt their spending habits accordingly (or put their head firmly in the sand and carry on as before in my case!). The benefit to the bank is that they are able to suggest ideas for how to improve a customer’s financial health alongside the data. Others have looked at how they can help customers by sharing (anonymised) information about what people with similar lifestyles/needs are doing/buying so customers can learn from each other. Trials have shown that customers welcomed the insight….(More)”