As a business owner or executive, what do you find is your most important resource?
Is it your people? Your mission and values? Your products or services?
Would you believe it is your data?
That’s right. In today’s digital world, data has become one of the most important resources for any size company or organization. Those bits and bytes of information that are mined by the terabyte across billions of access points have become a global currency in and of itself.
If you need proof of data’s value, a recent study from The Economist showed that the value of data has now surpassed oil – a commodity that has driven global markets and led to nation-state wars for access to the limited resource.
Nearly 97% of businesses report using data of all kinds to run their businesses – from keeping digital records to drawing new potential customers. The raw power of data as a resource has become a vital necessity for many businesses, with over 75% reporting that data management and procurement as part of their entire business strategy.
For enterprises, data has become much like the digital oil that powers the engines of industry. Whether you are a new entrepreneur or long-time business executive, you are likely aware that data is important, but do you understand the power of data enough to understand the need to protect this valuable resource?
So what exactly is data? At its most basic definition, data can be seen as customer information that paints a picture of the individuals sitting behind computer screens and cell phone screens around the world. That data is not only powerful, but each bit and byte of data holds a monetary value for entities that utilize that data to drive business decisions.
As the globe comes together to do business, post pictures, and like videos online, understanding the power that data holds can help individuals protect their integrity and identity online. For example, have you noticed how you may be scrolling your social media feed and pause on a particular brand or product that piques your interest? Suddenly ads for those products or services begin to pop up on nearly every digital outlet you visit!
This data mining is completed by emerging technology that tracks user behavior across a variety of websites and social streams to collect particular information about individuals. This data is collected by businesses and refined to make improved business decisions. Because of this incredible power, accessing user data online has become a vastly profitable business – for better and for worse.
As data is constantly created by users and mined by companies, a picture of you as a consumer is being constantly drawn to better target advertisements and promotional material your way. These insights are incredibly important for businesses to utilize their limited marketing resources to reach just the right potential customers. While data use may seem scary to some consumers, for brands and enterprises to avoid using, it may mean digital death in the online marketplace.
Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said it best – when it comes to brands utilizing user data, having access to a nearly limitless supply of user data out there to be mined, there is ample opportunity to take advantage of the free access to online resources for business goals.
Consider the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw social media giant Facebook facing backlash for allegedly selling user data regarding social post behavior to tailor political advertising from particular parties. When users became aware of the sale of their personal user data, trust in Facebook was immediately decimated. No longer was social media, your friend who loved looking at old memories with you. The curtain had been pulled back to reveal Big Brother’s invasion of privacy.
So how do businesses balance the need for user data access with the need to protect basic civil liberties? One of the best practices a business can implement is honesty regarding online privacy and user data usage. Most users are fine with their online behavior to be utilized for crafting better, more engaging online experiences – as long as companies allow the ability for opt-outs.
A quick death in business can come at the hands of a vacuum of data resources. In the same way that the loss of revenue, employees, or leadership can bring an enterprise to its knees, irresponsibility with data resources can kill your ability to function. Just as you would any other necessary resource, consider ways that your business can protect not only the availability of data but also the responsible collection of it as a resource.
The difference may mean the very future of online privacy and consumer trust.