Data-as-a-Service and the quest for a competitive edge

Organisations are looking for more sources of data to gain new business insights, creating potential opportunities for a new breed of data-as-a-service providers, writes Megha Kumar of IDC.
Tech, Business, Data, Strategy, Megha Kumar


Megha Kumar: Data-as-a-service providers could create new business opportunities for clients.

The underlying functioning of the world as we know it today is being driven by the creation of data and the actionable insights that can be derived from its analysis. This new reality has given rise to solutions around predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive analytics, and has inevitably spurred demand for a new generation of statisticians — data scientists, data hygienists, and even machine teachers.

But while there is no longer any doubt about the criticality of data, many organisations still lack a clear understanding of how to effectively leverage the mounds of data they are generating in-house. And despite all the noise being made around the ability of Big Data to power a new era of innovation, many organisations feel constrained by the fact that they don’t generate the required volumes of data.

But all is not lost for these organisations. Indeed, a possible solution is to procure the necessary data from an outside source. That’s because today’s seemingly insatiable demand for data is presenting opportunities for both public and private organisations to monetize their own banks of data by passing it on to other companies to use; a concept known as data-as-a-service.

This is nothing new; indeed, there are numerous firms out there that can provide access to social media data, ad words data, and relevant research data. And in the latter case, making such academic data openly accessible can help foster a culture of innovation and enable organisations to break the mould in their quest to secure a competitive edge.

Take, for example, the European Space Agency, which routinely makes its satellite data available for use by other parties. One such party was the reinsurance firm Munich Re, which used this satellite data to evaluate the risks associated with wildfires and keep costs down for their customers in California, where wildfires are an unfortunate but regular occurrence.

In the public sector, providing access to data is governed by the implementation of so-called ‘open data’ laws. These laws govern the circumstances under which data can be freely shared, and such legislation is becoming more widespread across the region as governments increasingly push to improve transparency.

To this end, the recently launched Dubai Data Initiative is making data available to organisations from both the public and private sectors, and is fuelling the rise of the emirate’s data economy. Ensuring the availability of data through such initiatives will enable government, educational, and business leaders to gain new insights and create innovative solutions.

So, if your organisation is looking to offer data-as-a-service, what factors need to be considered? First off, you need identify precisely what type of data you will be providing – profiles, lists, scores, etc? You also need to consider the quality of the data you are going to provide, and determine the form in which this data will be made available; for example, will it be raw data or data that has already been cleaned or processed?

Then there is pricing. Academic or public sector organisations may choose to provide free access to their data or charge a minimal fee in a bid to promote innovation. However, if you are looking to engage in a commercial opportunity, then you will need to establish a suitable pricing model — subscription or license? And will you charge additional data-processing fees?

Prospective data-as-a-service providers — both those that charge and those that offer their data for free – can choose to go it alone or participate in an industry-wide platform that is populated by a broader ecosystem of suppliers, resellers, and value-added content providers. And such decisions will obviously also influence the pricing model that is chosen.

It is incumbent upon any data-as-a-service provider to ensure compliance with all relevant local and/or international regulations governing the issues of data security and privacy, and they must be clear on the added value that they bring to the table. Indeed, to successfully compete in the data-as-a-service provider space, these organisations must differentiate their services and showcase the benefits their customers have achieved.

Common differentiators include the volume and quality of data provided, the variety of data sets offered, and the frequency with which the data is gathered or consolidated, while some providers choose to differentiate their services by industry specialisation or functionality (i.e., scientific data versus business data).

As organisations increasingly embrace the power of Big Data, a clear opportunity exists for data-as-a-service providers to provision access to data sets that were previously not available or too expensive to generate in-house. And there can be little doubt that, when done right, these services can help businesses innovate their way to a sustainable competitive advantage.

Megha Kumar is research director, software & cloud, IDC Middle East, Turkey & Africa

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