There’s a reason why you keep hearing that data is a ‘new oil’ in the world: a new valuable resource with which companies can make billions of dollars a year. It’s because data – those innocuous little packets of digital information – hold the key to unlocking consumer habits, making companies more efficient, or even understanding what voters want from their politicians. In this piece, we’re going to take a deep-dive into the world of data, understanding how you can leverage it in your own career and for your own understanding of your business in 2020 and beyond.
Data is Value
The fundamental principle that we’ll be working with throughout this piece is that data is ultimately valuable. In and of itself, data might just be a jumble of binary code, but in reality, it’s comparable to a rich vein of gold within a mountain, or a large lake of oil lurking beneath the Arabian sands. It’s valuable because of what you can do with it: extract it, draw insights from it, and use it to support your business in the future.
The key reason why data is so valuable in business is that it’s universal. Binary code understands other binary code, which means that you can let different information from across your business interact with software programs that can help you to understand a more holistic model of your firm. This has huge implications, as we’ll see below.
One of the most important terms that you’re likely to come across when you’re working with data is its hygiene level. What this essentially means is whether your data – whether internal company data, or data from your customers, or even external data – is interoperable. If your data is a hodge-podge smorgasbord of different configurations, it’ll be deemed unclean. And with unclean data, you’re less likely to be able to draw the insights that you need.
As such, when you’re working in a role that involves data, you need to understand how clean your data is – and just how you might be able to cleanse it of all of the inconsistencies that have rendered your data difficult to analyze. The simplest way to clean data is to use software solutions designed to this end. Input your dirty data, and they’ll launder it for you.
There are forms of data that humanity has been poring over for centuries. When we think back to Phoenician traders taking to the seas in the Mediterranean before Roman times, we rightly imagine the merchants and bankers counting up their fees and profits on an abacus. Financial data has long been the source of business insight – but the age of digital data has made this form of analysis far more granular, while opening up entirely new forms of data analysis, too.
Think for instance of the insights you can draw from the data that details who visits your website, These data can tell you the digital footprint of each web user, how they arrived on your website, where else they surfed that day, the demographic they belong to, how they arrived on your website, and what they did once they arrived on your unique URL. Already, you’ll know that the insights here can help to drive further traffic. And that’s but one example of how we can use data to direct our business practice for the future.
Data and AI
Data, you might think, has very little to do with AI. Where data is like a lake or a reservoir – a huge store of digital numbers ready to be processed and digested at your leisure – AI is something altogether more complex and inaccessible. While this is partly true, AI and data are actually very tightly linked. AI is trained by feeding data into algorithms to help an artificial bran start to make sense of the world. The more data you feed an AI program, the more it can start to think on its own.
With data essentially seen in this way, as the food for the AI of the future, it’s more important than ever to maintain data hygiene and the use of data responsibly and wisely into the future. Whether your company has AI aspirations, or you’re going to leave it to the experts before purchasing the finished product from them, you’ll not lose out if you keep your data securely and cleanly stored in your business.
To perform all of the above functions, you need to understand the science of data. This goes beyond one or two individuals in your business – it’s actually something that all employees ought to realize for your business to be able to make use of the ‘new oil’ that is flowing digitally through all that you do. You can start getting to grips with data and the world of science behind it by signing up for a data science masters program online. Here, you’ll learn how to process and analyze data for your firm or for firms you’ll work for in the future.
The key to data science is understanding where data can bring value. Your business likely makes use of data in certain use cases – but it’s less likely that you’ll be using your data in such a way as to inform all of your board room decisions. Get trained, get qualified, and you’ll be able to make your company jump to a higher level of productivity through the efficient use of the data you store.
Make no mistake: the data that underpins the modern economy is not about to disappear or to change. The digital, binary language of data is here to stay until quantum computers come into mainstream use, which is predicted as some decades off. As such, investing in the skills, knowledge, and expertise to handle data maturely is undoubtedly a long-term bet. You’ll be able to make the most out of these skills throughout your career – helping your company to succeed by using data smartly and efficiently.
Make data one of the critical areas of your expertise to bring maximal value to your career in the future.