Share to Unlock Data’s Potential

Sr. Product Marketing Director

Common themes of many big data success stories are the imperative to analyze data in motion (generated by customers, instrumented devices and sensors), and to combine these newly acquired data with one or more historic data sets. Correlation and predictive analytics help us understand now in context of then. Previously, we looked primarily within our organizations for these historic data. This is changing as our society recognizes the value of sharing data via the web.

With his February 2009 Linked Data TED presentation, Tim Berners-Lee issued the clarion call for Open Data when he led the audience in a chant of Raw Data Now. The following year, Sir Tim returned to TED to report on the growing success of his open data initiative. Building on momentum, Tim has co-founded and become president of the Open Data Institute, a non-profit company dedicated to “unlock supply, generate demand, create and disseminate knowledge to address local and global issues.

Governments have taken a lead in making thousands of data sets available via sites such as, and In its February 2013 report, The Open Data Economy - Unlocking Economic Value by Opening Government and Public Data, Capgemini Consulting identifies five nations – Australia, Canada, France, UK and USA – as setting the trend for open data initiatives. Sense.T exemplifies value created as publicly accessible data sets are combined.

Open Data has support in the commercial world. Through its focus on sustainability, Nike developed a database of vendors within its supply chain and scored each supplier to create a sustainability index. Realizing the potential value to all companies wishing to achieve sustainability, Nike has open-sourced its database and passed stewardship to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. As explained by Hannah Jones[1], Nike VP Sustainable Business & Innovation, “There are areas where we will compete, and there are areas where we see it’s really pre-competitive, and that’s where collective intelligence will help us all go faster.” The Coalition’s membership list suggests that many in the apparel industry share Hannah’s thinking. For commercial organizations interested in following Nike’s lead, the Open Data Institute offers advice on making a business case.

For pointers of how large enterprises consume open data and correlating these with existing information, read Michael Hickins Wall Street Journal blog Banks Using Big Data to Discover ‘New Silk Roads’. At the other end of the scale, Richard Waters’ Data open doors to financial innovation blog tells of small companies harnessing new data sources in their attempts to disrupt markets.



Back to my introduction, another common theme in big data success stories is a feedback loop to the customer. Looking beyond the dollars and cents of a single transaction, smart companies focus on building mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with customers. Big data’s potential for innovation can be realized by combining information our customers entrust to us with other data, including open data sources, and creating insights – or products – of value to customers. In 1954, Peter Drucker advised that creating a customer is the purpose business. In a networked world where we can reach almost any person or organization, it may be time to add keeping a customer to Drucker’s maxim.


[1] Available as a video stream from FT Innovate 2012. Site registration required.