When it comes to buying data and putting it to work, there’s a radical shift underway. It used to be that premium, curated data was only available to large organizations – libraries, research institutions, financial services companies and enterprises that could afford subscription fees to LexusNexis, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg Professional and other specialized data providers. That model is still alive and well. However, a new grassroots model is emerging that lets individual business managers find and purchase discrete packages of high-quality data as a one-shot deal, at a much lower price point.
The trend follows the same arc as cloud computing: Compute power and storage are now available to anyone who wants to sign up for Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Dropbox, no data center required. Decision-making is moving from the center of the enterprise to end users, via the cloud. This shift promises great changes in how we sell and consume data, putting data discovery and selection within the reach of individuals for the first time.
Years ago, O’Reilly wrote about how people might someday buy data on an iTunes model. It’s not inconceivable that, in the near future, people could buy 99-cent packets of data as easily as they download songs today. No longer will end users or companies be encumbered by monolithic corporate agreements or limited to a single content provider. Instead, they’ll have their choice of data packages from any of a number of data marketplaces. Data will flow more quickly and more freely, and, with the right tools, deliver better insights.
Open Government Leads the Way
This vision of data’s future aligns with the White House’s Open Government initiative. Just as freely available government GPS and weather data helped create today’s location-based mobile apps and navigation systems, the U.S. is now hoping data published to its data.gov site will stimulate a whole new class of applications and services. To support that effort, government agencies are now required to collect and publish new information in open, machine-readable and, whenever possible, non-proprietary formats, per a White House Executive Order.
“Making information resources accessible, discoverable, and usable by the public can help fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery – all of which improve Americans’ lives and contribute significantly to job creation.”
– Memorandum on Open Data Policy, May 9, 2013
The challenge for all of us is to make the shift to a user-centered experience. Business analysts want autonomy at their fingertips. They don’t want to be beholden to an enterprise license or have to take a class to learn how to use a tool. Business Intelligence (BI) software vendors are getting this message loud and clear: Give me the data and the tools I want, when I want them, or I’ll find a platform that will. No business wants to be on the losing end of that argument – especially with a $13-billion BI market at stake. That’s a lot of clams.
Tune in for my next post on how new data analytics tools and technologies are making it easier for end users to turn information into business insight.
Image credit: Tony Fischer photography