What is your organization's greatest asset?

Ask your CEO and your board, and they will say it is your people. Ask your head of marketing, and the answer will be your brand. Your CFO will say your value is determined in your financial statements.

But is it possible that they may all be wrong, or may soon be? (Hint: How would your CIO answer?)

The profusion of systems has led to a bumper crop of data. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and all of the other social media sites track the beginning of each person's journey to commitment, while marketing automation tracks the latter part of the journey. CRM systems and databases track prospect and client or member activity, while financial systems track the numbers.

Other systems track post-sales service activity, while your internet, extranet and intranet generate even more data. Finally, data can be shared from all manner of stakeholders or purchased from third parties to further enrich what you already have.

While the term "big data" has been around for a number of years already, the reality for most organizations is that they have a big data mess. To begin extracting value from this asset, consider your organization's data analytics maturity:

  • Level 0: Does not collect data. Relies on gut (and sporadic market research) to make decisions.
  • Level I: Collects data within separate systems; reviews data sporadically.
  • Level II: Data architecture that combines and "relates" all of the data from the disparate systems, so it can later be used. Data is cleansed, and duplicate records removed. The reason all this is possible is that a specific person has been assigned the role of data steward or master data manager. Unfortunately, the data is not generally accessible, except through difficult programming or special requests.
  • Level III: Specific slices of the data are exposed in real time for better decision-making. Each role may have a different dashboard, depending on their responsibilities, while standard reports are used throughout the organization.
  • Level IV: The data is proactively plumbed for insights, risks and opportunities. Internal and external data are married to provide higher order insights and competitive advantage.

Most organizations are at Level 0 or I, yet aspire to Level IV without doing the heavy lifting required of Levels II and III. Building competitive advantage through data is just not possible without an investment in systems, an ongoing investment in data quality and data analytics.

This week's action item: Which level are you at? This week, begin the process of moving to the next level by socializing these concepts with your colleagues. Share this article to begin the conversation.

This year's action item: Systems and data quality are easy, but proactive data analytics is a skill most organizations do not have — and often do not understand. Over the next year, identify a person or group who can do this, either internally or externally.