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Is Your Data Becoming Commoditized?

If your organization is in the business of supplying data—either to internal or external customers—it’s likely that your business is rapidly becoming commoditized. There is so much data in the world that it is increasingly not very valuable in itself. Most organizations need data to make better decisions, but analyzing data is difficult and time-consuming. If you still want to get a premium for the data you supply, you need to supplement it with analysis and insights.

This is a long-term trend, but I was motivated to blog about it after a conversation with a friend who is developing an automated analysis tool for financial data. He was previously at a large brokerage and investment firm. While employed there a couple of years ago, he had occasion to negotiate licenses with some large providers of corporate financial data. The annual license fee was $250,000 for up-to-date performance data on a variety of US firms.

Now, as part of getting his new firm going, he’s gone back to some of the same companies to negotiate licenses for more-or-less the same data. The cost is now less than half of what it was a couple of years ago, even for a customer that’s much smaller with considerably less leverage than his old firm.

My friend is hoping to make the data more useful with automated analysis. He points out that there is way too much data available for the number of equity analysts in the world. But it’s fair to say that other industries have a similar problem—too much data, not enough people to analyze it without the help of some automated or semi-automated tools.

Perhaps you can begin thinking of ways to make data less commoditized in your organization. But if you need help, we’re working on the issue at IIA. Jeanne Harris of Accenture, Russ Walker of Northwestern’s Kellogg School and I are working on a research project we call “Leveraging Proprietary Data for Competitive Advantage.” I’ve just written an overview of the research project, and a research brief on how financial organizations leverage (or not) payments data. Both are available to IIA members in the proprietary research library in the Members Area.

If you have any proprietary data that you are starting to leverage and de-commoditize, please let us know—we’d love to talk with you. I promise not to blog (or otherwise write) about you without your permission!