~ book review by Marty Shaw, Global-Z Director of Sales & Marketing

Merriam-Webster defines “asset” simply as “an item of value owned”. We have no debate applying this definition to one’s house, their vehicle, fine jewelry and the like. Even in business we account for and protect our capital equipment as business assets. Data on the other hand, this is only beginning to gain ground in businesses and other organization as a valuable asset; one which should be treated with care to help realize the full value of this key business resource.

The Data Asset: How Smart Companies Govern Their Data for Business Success” by Tony Fisher, is an outstanding book that provides real world examples that help any organization better understand and benefit from data as a corporate asset.

For the golfing enthusiasts out there The Data Asset offers a suitable analogy to ponder:

“A good golfer appreciates playing on a course where the greens are well maintained. Putting on a well-maintained green is like putting on carpet because there are no inconsistencies, and the ball runs true. By contrast, putting on greens that are not maintained very well may increase your score (not a good thing in golf) by 6 to 10 strokes. When a corporation does not treat data as an asset (poorly maintained greens), the ball does not run true (inaccurate data produces incorrect and misleading results), and the corporation suffers increased inconsistencies, errors, and even compliance failure.”

The practical steps and advice offered by Tony help a company down the road to data quality as an organizational asset, defining data quality where “an organization’s data is reliable, consistent, up to date, free of duplication, and fit for its purposes.”

Some companies’ stumbling point in the quest for data quality is at the starting gate, getting buy in from senior management who hold the purse strings. Helping build the business case Tony outlines areas where treating data as an asset benefits three key business areas:

  • Risk mitigation
  • Revenue optimization
  • Cost controls

The relatively simple concept detailed throughout the book with great case studies points to the reality that “better data leads to better decisions, which ultimately leads to better business.”

Tony outlines the “stages of the data governance maturity model” with details that each person can relate to, helping identify where their organization is in the continuum:

1.      Undisciplined

2.      Reactive

3.      Proactive

4.      Governed

Tony begins each chapter with a notable quotes to help set the tone for the chapter.  Some of my favorites included:

  • Risk mitigation: “A danger foreseen is half avoided.” – Proverb
  • Cost control: “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin
  • Revenue optimization: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” – Arthur Conan Doyle (via Sherlock Holmes)

A quote of caution is borrowed from Bill Gates as we continue on the path toward being governed organizations:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second rule is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Tony’s book provides caution while offering tips, strategies and advice, coupled with the benefit of businesses case studies of those that have gone down the path before us.  I highly recommend this book for any organization looking to take greater control of their corporate data and treating it as the asset it is.

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