In a previous post, I talked about defining the value of your information assets in terms of revenue—how the business makes its money. Well, the opposite is also equally important: the negative costs of mismanaged and ineffective data. The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) estimates that “companies risk losing $10 million a year from poor-quality data,” while Gartner puts this number slightly higher at $14.2 million annually.

In a recent TDWI survey, they report the top barriers to managing Big Data are:
  • Inadequate staffing/skills
  • Lack of governance/stewardship
  • Lack of business sponsorship
  • Data integration complexity
  • Data ownership and other politics
The problem is that we haven’t even begun to identify what data sets are of value to which lines of business—for incoming data and existing data—to drive decision-making. We know this analysis and cleansing of data is a shifting target when we look at the needs of the different lines of business, creating complexity and high costs.

The promise of Big Data floated the possibility of achieving a 360-degree view of the customer, including all past, present and even future interactions, all powered by rich, context-driven data sets. The ability to identify patterns and gain insights from information powers intuitive decision-making that allows us to act quickly and accurately while ensuring customer satisfaction.

However, the expanding digital footprint of data (mobile, social media, audio files, videos, etc.) presents complex challenges in managing its exponential growth while exposing real risk to the organization’s brand. Today, any misalignment in a brand’s promise or values and how the customer perceives the brand in any interaction can have swift consequences. There is real risk when it comes to corporate reputation, and according to Forrester Research, these reputation factors heighten every other risk to an organization as well.

In this changing corporate landscape, many, including risk professionals, are not prepared for an increasing focus on these customer-centric dynamics. Forrester Analyst Nick Hayes reports that risk professionals “remain focused on financial controls, change management and information technology (IT) compliance issues instead of adjusting their priorities to mitigate the customer-facing risks.” Instead, he advises, “Implement risk management processes across your customer-facing systems and functions. In the same way that governance, risk and compliance (GRC) efforts help support technology, finance or supply chain objectives, risk pros should apply them to functions that drive revenue and growth.”

Many, including Forrester, believe that the modern stakeholder must evolve beyond their own domain and become business leaders in order to support organizational goals and gain competitive advantage. The strongest narrative of this school of thought is the call for the chief information officer (CIO) to be less focused on technology and more concerned about the brand. Now, this is a polarizing subject and one that is at the center of heated debate. In a recent conversation with Matt Mullen, senior analyst of social business at 451 Research, he believes that the role of the CIO is to “manage the organizational data to ensure security and governance and to understand which lines of business heads need what data, how they want to receive it and manage that provision. They need to be able to react to changing demands from these lines of business, but, ultimately, the use of data in understanding the brand is owned by the chief marketing officer (CMO).

Whether you talk to CIOs or information managers, you will hear that it’s not their job to manage the brand; that’s marketing’s, and it is, but there is real validity in asking for these professionals to think about how these systems and these information assets will actually deliver business results—or enable the promise of the brand. Like business users who took control and became tech-savvy to drive their strategies forward, we are asking technology/information leaders to become business-savvy: What are the business goals? Who are we as a company? What are our values?

We understand that such cultural shifts and organizational transformation must be a top-down effort, but stakeholders must begin to buy into such modes of thought in order to collaborate and begin on the path of cross-functionality. Why? So much of the data we need to drive intelligent decisions are fragmented between systems, customer interaction points and lines of business (i.e., marketing, sales, servicing, finance, human resources, etc.). In addition, the sheer amount of unstructured data, such as email messages, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, collaboration software and instant messages, pictures and videos, flowing into an organization is almost unmanageable, notwithstanding the prevalent mystery of “dark data” and an inability to put business value on existing information.

The discussion about finding value within Big Data and extracting its great promise is one that is stuck on repeat. Our publication believes it is time to move on from speaking about the promise and operationalizing data-driven decision-making. We believe the first step is a cross-functional steering committee that is focused on analyzing and setting value metrics on information assets. In order to transform how we place value on data, we must first:
  • Understand what business objective/decision the data supports and why stakeholders need access to it
  • Analyze what data sets are needed to produce results for business objectives, including those hidden in your dark archive, and what the solution will look like
  • Create insight on how the solution will be integrated into business processes and the metrics of success (while consistently aligning the strategy to changing business demand and lines of business needs)
We know this won’t be easy. As a friend told me, “It’ll be like throwing sand at a sandbox, but it’s a first step.” I hope that you will join me in throwing some sand around, as we finally realize all the promise of Big Data while keeping our own promises to our customers at the same time.

Allison Lloyd serves as the editor of DOCUMENT Strategy Media. She delivers thought leadership on strategic and plan-based solutions for managing the entire document, communication and information process. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter @DOCUMENTmedia.

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