Making data make sense

Viewpoints Technology and innovation

Image: Technology and innovationLike most executives, you probably find that your desk and e-mail in-box are overflowing with reports and other critical updates: business plans, budgets, sales figures, market analyses, and more. The point of all that information? Providing the intelligence you need to make informed business decisions. The reality, however, is that businesses don’t need more information; they need more meaning.1

CEOs agree that while they rely most on information about customer preferences, business risks, and competitor performance to run their businesses, the information they receive is often inadequate to their needs.2 While a natural response to addressing that information gap might be to pile on more reports or dig deeper into the data warehouse, quite often that’s exactly the wrong response.

CEOs agree that while they rely most on information about customer preferences, business risks, and competitor performance to run their businesses, the information they receive is often inadequate to their needs.

Using today’s business intelligence systems to make crucial connections and put information into context is a significant challenge. Often those technology systems are built around sophisticated databases that can rapidly and accurately analyze data but lack the flexibility to allow users to easily incorporate data that are in different formats or that come from external sources. It means businesses cannot easily take advantage of important insight and information from partners, customers, or public domain sources.

That’s why an emerging technology called Linked Data is beginning to capture the attention of the business community. As its name suggests, Linked Data technology simplifies, enriches, and standardizes the data description process, making it possible to map connections among data and documents wherever they reside and allowing users to more effectively share, filter, and find the relevant information they need to make better business decisions. This differs from the more constraining relational database systems in use today, which rely on data descriptions that can’t be easily developed or shared.


Mind the gap: Comparison of adequacy and importance of business data
Percent of CEO respondents who rated how important the following information is to their businesses and how adequately they receive the information

 You need the Adobe Flash Player to view this video. Get Adobe Flash.


Source: PwC, 12th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2009. 


If you think this sounds a lot like what new Internet technologies are attempting to do on the World Wide Web, you aren’t far off. The challenges that individuals face in finding relevant information on the Web are similar to what executives deal with in their own enterprises. The only difference lies in the size and scale of the data that must be managed.

The reality is that businesses don’t need more information; they need more meaning.

Linked Data is expected to revolutionize the way organizations derive meaning from their data. Today the approach is already being used by leading organizations across many industries, including media, energy, technology, and healthcare, as well as the public sector. Many of those organizations are testing the new technology in specific business units or are getting involved in industry-focused initiatives designed to share common approaches.


1 PwC, “Spinning a data web,” Technology forecast, spring 2009.
2 PwC, 12th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2009.