I was privileged to work with the authors of an amazing book last year: Data Leverage: Unlocking the Surprising Growth Potential of Data Partnerships, by Christian Ward and James J. Ward.
The reason I call this book amazing is that it answers a fundamental question I’d never considered before: What is the value of all of a company’s data, and how can the company safely and ethically profit from that data? Because it is based on the authors’ extensive experience counseling companies working on data partnerships, it exudes a level of credibility that’s rare in books like this.
This book will open your eyes. It’s not just about data your company has collected — it’s also about the data other organizations collect about your company. It goes into exhaustive detail about those types of data, how valuable they are (in either monetary or barter terms), who might value them, and how to present them in partnership discussions. There are obvious risks that come with how you treat data, and Data Leverage provides sober advice about those risks, including the obligations for companies in the age of Europe’s GDPR regime. This is all structured in a process called the DataSmart Method that analyzes data partnership strategy in four steps: identify, value, structure, protect. The book covers every conceivable aspect of such a strategy.
Here’s the foreword I wrote for the book. If you are in any way responsible for your company’s data — or even if you’re just interested in the ways that data is flowing in today’s digital economy — it’s absolutely worth a read.
Foreword to Data Leverage
“I am not a number, I am a free man!” So says the main character of the dystopian television series The Prisoner, an ex-spy played by Patrick McGoohan who is kidnapped and then trapped in a constantly surveilled community from which he can never escape. But he is wrong. He is a number. He is Number Six. And we never learn his name.
We are all numbers now. We are birthdays, credit scores, auto registrations, online purchase histories, bank records, Web searches, social media posts, and location histories. We are data. This data helps companies serve us. And, treated with appropriate care and in aggregate, the same data can enrich the companies that collect it. Data is the currency and competitive advantage that drives the future. But getting at that value is far from straightforward.
There is great potential here for every organization, as well as great risk. You cannot tap the value of this data without a guide. Furthermore, you must respect your obligations to the consumers from whom that data originates. You cannot treat them and their data as prisoners like Number Six.
Christian and Jay Ward have created the guide you need to safely, efficiently profit from data while respecting the rights of those the data describes. Their guide is based on vast experience. It is indispensable.
As an analyst and editor for over 20 years, I’ve seen technology trends come and go. I’ve watched companies embrace – and often screw up – their approach to ecommerce, to social media, to mobile technology, and to artificial intelligence. It’s difficult to see the future clearly when you are barreling headlong into it. With this clouded vision, it’s very easy to make mistakes in what appears to be uncharted and promising territory.
But this book is about far more than a technology trend – and will be relevant far longer. From the minute I encountered this text, I knew there was something special about it. The value of an organization’s data is obvious and fundamental, a value that other technology trends only serve to enhance as they generate new forms of data. But unlocking that value? No one had ever before taken a broad and practical viewpoint on that topic.
This text comes from Christian and Jay’s broad, deep experience with real companies. Where there is uncertainty, it provides reassurance. Where there is opportunity, it provides roadmaps. And where there is risk, it provides tools to protect yourself and your data subjects. With it, you can confidently and safely pursue the value of your data and negotiate on an even footing with partners much bigger, more experienced, and more savvy than yourself.
Data Leverage is a unique asset. Once you read what’s here, you’ll never see the world the same way again. More importantly, you’ll be able to profit from it.
Now get to work.