Why data is the “crude oil” of your organisation

Organisations that value data are the ones that will survive. Those that successfully mine real-time insights will thrive.

Gone are the days where we throw data away. The digital economy is requiring organisations to begin taking a holistic approach to collecting all of its data, storing it and gaining insight from it.

“Data is the crude oil – it’s how you refine it, how you work with it, that makes it valuable,” says Jonathan Woodward, Business Lead for BI and Analytics at Microsoft UK. And as we explored earlier, the data will come from everywhere: from embedded systems, from pools of structured and unstructured data, from inside and outside of the organisation, from social media, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices.

“Data is the crude oil – it’s how you refine it, how you work with it, that makes it valuable,”

Making data work for you

The question becomes, how do you make that data work for you? By integrating all of your data to make decisions. The goal for the prescient CIO is to enable their people to make real time business decisions based on all of the data that flows in the organisation. In short, it’s about analytics.

In its recent study, “The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015,” Gartner pointed specifically to advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics, as well as context-rich systems and smart machines. These trends, according to Woodward, move organisations away from a traditional organising principle of siloes, to a unified and virtual approach. “That’s where you need to leverage the power of the cloud to integrate data,” he adds. “It’s the only way data comes together.”

The “quantification of giving”

Case in point, JustGiving. Since 2001, the online fundraising site has been helping people raise money for charity. In fact, its 22 million users have raised over £3 billion for their favourite causes. According to Mike Bugembe, chief analytics officer at JustGiving, most of its donations were initially quite transactional. A person would run a marathon to raise money for a specific charity, her friends and family donated once the race was run and that was it. “We wanted to make giving far more engaging,” Bugembe says. “So first, it had to become social. Then second, it had to be relevant.”

The company created a Facebook-like social media graph database called GiveGraph to understand how people donate to causes. Using Microsoft Azure cloud technology, JustGiving were able to put the more than 361 million relationships between 81 million nodes in their database to work, delivering personalised giving opportunities in real time. When people see their social network is supporting a cause, such as disaster relief, people are more likely to give to causes than before. In fact, JustGiving believes they’re 91% more likely to do so.

Becoming “purely self-learning”

Working with Azure has enabled Bugembe and his team of developers to look ahead and continue improving the graph. The company’s 14 engineers are now focused on making the algorithm smarter with additional data sources. “By integrating these into the infrastructure, I hope it can become purely self-learning,” Bugembe says.

“In the new world, everyone is empowered to make decisions”

Future success means taking a similarly comprehensive approach to data and analytics that includes sharing data, sharing insights and helping people work collaboratively to achieve results. “Imagine you’re in the large organisation of the past where data was quite protected and only a few people had access,” Woodward says. “In the new world, everyone has access and they’re empowered to make decisions. The cloud is simply the productivity mechanism and data is the fuel.”