Riding the data-sharing economy innovation wave: sink or swim?

It might seem obvious to us now that putting unused physical assets to work and generating revenue by ‘renting’ them out is a good idea. However, this concept wasn’t self-evident in a world before the likes of Uber and AirBnB.

‘Sharing economy’ business models like these have completely revolutionised the way we think about physical assets, and this has led me to wonder: What other types of unused assets have we yet to put to work?

A data-sharing economy

Businesses today are flooded with data. From product specs or details on partners and suppliers, to shipping and logistics records or customer information, organisations are awash with new data as well as the data stored across disks, servers, and laptops – sometimes spanning decades of business activity.

>See also: We need consensus on personal data

Despite gathering this data in huge quantities, organisations often leave it sitting idle – neglecting so much value locked up in this information. This presents a real opportunity for businesses to start building a sharing economy for digital assets.

If enabled by the right system, a business could easily share its data – particularly unused or underused data – with partners, suppliers, manufacturers, and any other relevant third parties with an interest in its supply chains and business processes.

The type of rich insights this data sharing would provide could, ultimately, help optimise everyone’s performance and lead to win-win improvements across the supply chain.

Opportunities are available in every imaginable business sector, from healthcare and retail, to financial services and manufacturing. Just consider the innovations which could be possible by sharing data across the supply chain for consumer packaged goods.

>See also: The sharing economy: driving workplace change

Access to shared data could offer businesses insight into how long a product stays in store before it’s sold, or even where damages are most likely to occur in the supply chain. With insights at this level, businesses would be able to improve the whole process from manufacturing to sale.

Building on trust

As with any sharing economy business model, a data-sharing system requires two key components. Of course, it needs a platform for sharing large volumes of information, but there is one more essential ingredient for success: trust.

For stakeholders to share inside information across a platform, they must be confident that their secrets, proprietary data, and competitive advantages won’t be compromised. It’s equally important that they can be sure any data sharing practices are compliant with incoming data regulations, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is due to come into effect in May 2018.

Fortunately, platforms which meet these criteria do exist. However, many enterprises face another hurdle in trying to persuade businesses to understand that data sharing is a benefit instead of a threat.

Organisations are inclined to consider their data with a highly protectionist mindset. This attitude has to shift before a successful data-sharing economy can be built.

>See also: Digital trust and the API economy

Businesses should look at the value of sharing information. As just one example, more accurate insights into customer and product trends could cut the number of software flaws, or help pinpoint and resolve service problems before they result in an uptick in customer support tickets. With insights like this, the possibilities for improvements are unlimited.

Looking ahead

While a data-sharing economy offers huge opportunities, we’re not quite there yet. Concerns around competitive secrets falling into the wrong hands or mission-critical information being leaked are still front of mind for many businesses.

Nevertheless, the early movers will begin adopting this data-sharing economy model within the next ten years. As soon as this group of early adopters gets it right, other companies will need to get involved to ensure they remain competitive.

This will follow in the footsteps of digital transformation. Once the data-sharing economy begins to gather momentum, it would be counterproductive for companies to refrain from following suit – not least because they’d miss out on the network-effect advantage that will come into play.

Today businesses view data as a vital resource – on a par with money or fuel. However, organisations now need to go a step further and unlock the value that data holds to make it meaningful.

>See also: The cloud in a digital age – an opportunity for growth and success

Once they have achieved this with the assistance of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, the next stage will be identifying even more profitable ways to put this currently idle data to work, and sharing it with their wider network.

People have already been enabled to make money from underused cars or empty space in our homes, but at an enterprise-level, businesses should consider how to monetise their underused information in the same way.

A B2B data-sharing economy will be the next wave of innovation – so capitalising on this technology will be the differentiator between businesses that sink or swim.


Sourced by Adam Howatson, CMO at OpenText


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...