The increasingly critical role of data in the enterprise [Q&A]

Laptop collecting data

The importance of data has increased exponentially in recent years, for businesses of all sizes. But there are increasing challenges too, posed by privacy regulation, alternative data and more.

We spoke to Or Lenchner, CEO of Bright Data to find out more about the key role of data in the enterprise and how businesses can use it effectively.

BN: How can C-suite executives leverage data to deliver business value to their organizations?

OL: C-suite leaders should take it upon themselves to be champions of data-driven programs. This is because the C-suite is the driver and influencer for all decision-making within a company, especially for new web data collection solutions.

As a result of their influence, the C-suite also has a responsibility to make sure they are championing the right forms of data that are going to deliver the most value to their businesses. This is of utmost importance. Currently, there is data obesity, and getting your data sources right takes more effort than you may initially plan for. If the C-suite is relying solely on internal data sources, they're only doing a disservice to the business. The C-suite should supplement their internal data sources with external data sources or, in other words, alternative data (alt-data). Alt-data can provide insights to measure growth by following company postings or, for example, real-time shipment tracking to identify revenue blocks in the supply chain.

My advice for organizations early on in their data journey is to nominate someone in the C-suite who can champion their data cause. Identify the alt-data that will truly make a difference to your business and will steer you on the path to growth. Public web-based data, for example, is the only form of data that is sharp and flexible enough to provide a real snapshot of your market reality and can be easily integrated into your business matrix.

BN: What is alternative data and what role does it play in the tech space?

OL: Alternative data (alt-data), as I mentioned above, is a subset of external data that provides real-time insights. I believe all industries can find uses for alt-data. However, organizations in the technology space, including tech startups, should be paying especially close attention to it. The technology and start-up space is always looking for the 'next big thing' that will revolutionize an industry. To do this, innovators need to conduct extensive market research to understand the landscape they're trying to break into and to identify the next required big innovation that will stand out in our crowded market.

For example, tech and start-up companies can collect the unique selling points of similar companies to know what's currently being addressed, and where there are gaps in the market. Alt-data can also be used to see which kinds of companies are attracting the most attention from VCs and PE firms. It can also be used to protect your company, especially if it's in a maturing stage, by looking at historical market shifts and flagging potential uncertainty that’s on the way. When used correctly, alt-data can help companies evaluate the kinds of market risks they have an appetite for.

BN: How would you suggest organizations looking to start collecting public web data to go about it and build their data-driven strategy?

OL: Like with developing a new product, I would advise them to start small, and probably manually; test the data and verify that it addresses your business needs, and once you've done that, expand and automate. If you've never been swimming before, you wouldn't start by jumping into the deep end -- you would most likely dip your toes in first.

Organizations that are in the early stages of their data journeys should make sure they're focused on the right data to address their goals. Otherwise, time and resources will be wasted.

Sifting through the mountains of raw data is a time-consuming task that requires data-driven expertise. In fact, leading research firm Gartner estimates that it takes companies over 40 percent of the time which should be dedicated to analysis. In some cases, even more. If you don’t have an in-house team of data experts, I would advise looking to outsource this daunting task. Today, there are many solutions that are cost-effective, easily integrated into your systems, and, above all, compliant with your guidelines; these solutions can do in mere minutes what would take you days and sometimes weeks to do. Once the accurate and reliable data is collected and streamlined by a partner, your team can then analyze it to feed and fortify your decision-making processes.

BN: What are the current challenges the data industry is facing?

OL: In the grand scheme of things, the main challenges today are good ones to have since we’re living in the middle of a data-explosion era.

The catch? There's a challenge (and call to action, to be frank) by industry leaders and their customers to build guidelines and regulations that will support the speed of growth. I'm a true believer that clear guidelines and transparency in conduct will enhance, firstly, public trust in data as well as help businesses and organizations lead their data strategy with certainty. Yes, there are regulations in place to deal with data privacy. GDPR and CCPA have done us a lot of good, but what about the processes and practices? Shouldn’t they be regulated and come into the light, so to speak? I know many are against it. I suspect this is for business competition reasons. I think that clarity and transparency are the 'mother' behind trust and eventual success. We have an opportunity here to make a real difference and regulate a domain that will clearly lead us in years to come -- let’s do it sooner rather than later.

BN: How much regulation do you think should be enforced on bots?

OL: As a member of several responsible AI task forces, I believe that many industry players are also proponents of tougher regulation in this field. A recent survey we partnered on with Vanson Bourne found that 48 percent of US survey participants have guidelines in place to moderate all uses of bots, and another 48 percent have guidelines regulating some uses of bots.

Bots are an integral part of driving our real-time economy forward. They automate manual actions and make us faster and more efficient. Regulation is one of the ways we can ensure this advanced technology is used correctly and does no harm. It's great to already see such a strong appetite to expand on bot regulation -- that means organizations are taking it upon themselves to create their own sets of compliant guidelines. The next step is to establish an industry-wide framework that addresses bot use from every known angle. Afterward, we must, of course, keep it updated, as automation is becoming mainstream practice and does not show any signs of slowing down. This is our new real time, we must embrace it and keep it compliant with the right set of guidelines. Then, we are truly benefiting from both worlds.

Image credit: Tashatuvango / Shutterstock

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