SharingThe last phase of the data lifecycle, sharing, is not unsurprisingly the one where the benefits of working with data are most apparent. I have discussed on a number of occasions the benefits of sharing data between colleagues and within the company and how marketing, sales, product design, operational planning and other activities are critical to decision making within a business. This internal sharing and use of data is widely understood but a less appreciated activity is the one of pushing data out. The inside out approach has many benefits and in this post I will look at one of them and the opportunities it can provide and examine how sharing data can make the whole enterprise bigger, more profitable and more flexible. Data can create alliances and the advantages of data centric alliances include; scalability of operations, flexibility of alliance partnerships, agility of business goals.ScalabilityTraditionally establishing an alliance was a complex procedure and involved detailed contractual arrangements covering the distribution of information, revenue and resources. At an implementation level the infrastructure and operational required very careful planing as well as a substantial amount of human resource. The amount of activity and communications involved in managing an alliance resulted in increased effort and cost. The effort and cost of managing an alliance meant that the rewards of an alliance had to be clear before they were entered into. A data centric alliance allows many of these processes to be automated and streamlined resulting in a much higher degree of operational flexibility. New alliance partners and new areas of allied business activity and process can be tried out due to the lower financial and resource burden. Setting up a new alliance by sharing data is a relatively lightweight process and the result is that more alliances can be formed and they can be easily scaled up and down to match demand.
As an example consider a company in the hospitality sector, who during a significant sporting event wishes to link to other visitor facilities, by sharing data on accommodation, ticket sales, event times, transport booking, etc. an alliance between hoteliers, taxi firms and event venues can offer visitors a joined up agenda enabling cross selling opportunities between alliance partners. Once the mechanism for sharing data are in place the alliance can benefit from any real time changes to the event. A team getting knocked out of the event, extra time or changes in the weather can be built into product and resource planning amongst all the alliance partners. New partners can be brought on stream quickly, cheaply and on demand. Aside from extra business revenue and cost saving, the flexibility to respond to the market can bring longer term rewards in terms of improved service and increasing customer loyalty.FlexibilityAllowing alliances to be created on demand can be as simple as providing access to a company’s data, for example distributing a stock list that includes variations in price can reduce or share risk. If a supplier of perishable goods forms an alliance, between the reseller of these goods and the logistic provider, opportunities can be exploited and risks reduced all round. If setting the alliance up is an easy process and has low associated cost the numbers of businesses forming an alliance can be very flexible and able respond to needs as they arise. Take the example above of the alliance between the supplier of perishable goods, the reseller and the logistics company, add into the mix a publisher and or broadcaster combine it with the weather and exploiting a seasonal bumper harvest and subsequent glut of a product becomes much easier, and it is done simply by exchanging information and data. Businesses would also be able to broadcast alliance opportunities rather than having to find alliance partners. As an example, having a half empty stadium, empty seats or a production run of a new craft beer can become assets that attract new opportunistic alliances.AgilityMany alliances are set in aspic if not in stone and are planned and even dependent on predictable outcomes. If company A forms and alliance with company B to sell and distribute each others products or services the success of the alliance depends on the match between the products and the success of each product but if the alliance is based on sharing data a new mix can be invoked very easily. Responding to change becomes the act that forms and then drives the partnership.
The traditional ways, of forging alliances through data, use API’s and services to make connections between companies. I like to think of these API’s as a nice neat and manageable way of connecting things, after all I do like things like solutions that are all straight and logical lines. However in reality it is never quite like that, more often than not it is much more spaghetti like affair. What is needed is for each participating company to share their joined up data rather than attempting to get all of their disparate silos to try speak with each other.This has yet another effect to the data life-cycle as the blended and analysed data creates new data sets and therefore more data. As the alliance adds new partners more data and more information is generated. As more information is generated more value and more opportunities are created. As it is a central data store the overhead of writing configuring and deploying new API’s does not exist, the core API that comes as a part of the application serves the users.