“Behind every great content strategy is a great data management strategy.”
Debra Walton did not say exactly this during my interview with her, but it’s clear from our conversation that, as Chief Content Officer at multinational mass media and information firm Thomson Reuters, it’s an ethos to which she ascribes on a daily basis.
Content management is no easy feat for any company. It takes dedicated, concerted effort from every person who interacts with that content to ensure that it stays up-to-date, relevant and easily accessible for each different party. And data has become primary driver of a successful content. At enterprise organizations, this can pose a serious challenge: where properly managing vast amounts of content and data and aligning them effectively can make or break an enterprise’s success.
I spoke with Debra about the challenges and trends we’re seeing in enterprise content and data management, and why organizations must stop fighting the big data boom and embrace it for their benefit.
1. What challenges do enterprises like Thomson Reuters encounter when managing and delivering data?
In today’s information economy, taking advantage of big data has become a mandate instead of an option for companies seeking to remain competitive in the market. New technologies are emerging at a rapid pace and disruption is always on the horizon. Large companies may face a greater challenge than smaller ones when it comes to managing and delivering data, since they tend to have “silo syndrome”: divisions that use datasets, often contained in legacy systems, that aren’t accessible across the enterprise. This hampers the formation of coherent strategies at the executive level, because the whole picture isn’t readily available to the people who are steering the ship.
But the sheer volume of available data, and the pace at which it is generated, pose a major challenge for companies of all sizes. Cost is also an issue. Managing data—a process that involves cleaning, aggregating, and analyzing it to separate the signal from the noise—is becoming expensive. The goal is to turn “big” data into “smart” data so that clients don’t become overwhelmed. This involves ensuring that trustworthy information is easy to discover and contextualize so that it can generate tangible results. The Thomson Reuters Permanent Identifier, or PermID—a unique, digital identifier for any type of entity—is one of a number of tools we offer to help clients winnow the huge flow of data into a manageable stream.
2. How can enterprise organizations optimize data discoverability? How can we break down the walls of data discoverability without jeopardizing organizations’ privacy?
Businesses today are increasingly coming to what even a few years ago might have been a startling conclusion: sharing certain types of data can be mutually beneficial. Thomson Reuters has made open data a central part of its strategy. Support for the approach is growing because of the ease of increased collaboration and the greater range of data sets available. The strategy fosters the creation of standards and allows other organizations to add their own data or find new ways to analyze it.
Creating standard identifiers, such as the PermID, and robust tools for tagging data are helping break down the walls when it comes to accessing and managing the reference data that all firms in a given sector need. This data is not especially insightful on its own; it must be put in context, and every company will use it differently. But the fact that it’s available to all decreases the cost of accessing and managing it.
Some types of data—including proprietary trading algorithms, analytical models, and messaging, customer and account information—belong inside a firm’s firewall and need to be handled on premise for competitive or compliance reasons. Companies can develop or outsource platforms that allow them to take advantage of open data without compromising the privacy of internal data, a best-of-both-worlds solution.
3. How can enterprise organizations ensure that sales reps and advisors have the resources they need to productively engage with customers?
Among the many benefits big data brings to business is the ability to empower sales teams. In an age when “know your customer” is a mantra, if not an imperative, data can provide sales and marketing departments with crucial insights that help them better serve—and retain—their clients.
Such insights can come from a range of sources and in a variety of formats. A rep might want ready access to all the news in a given sector, or granular information about a particular person or product. Everything from weather patterns to financial reports can be accessed far more quickly and easily than in the past. Machines can distill key information from quarterly and annual reports, regulatory filings, or press releases, decreasing the time required for end users to benefit from it.
Platforms such as those offered by Thomson Reuters allow sales teams to arm themselves with intelligent data gleaned through parameters they’ve established. The goal is to give them the ability to anticipate what their customers need and be prepared for unforeseen events. By leveraging our proprietary and third-party data, sales teams become knowledge teams, well-informed and fully prepared to meet their clients’ needs.
4. How can enterprise organizations make the most of big data? Is big data a blessing or a curse for organizations trying to use data to their advantage?
Big data can easily overwhelm a company that isn’t prepared to deal with it. But in a world that’s increasingly connected and more agile, innovative, and open, it’s a crucial element of success. By working with appropriate external partners, organizations of all sizes can gain access to the intelligence they need to foster new business strategies and nurture innovation. To do this, they need to remember that the key isn’t to know everything. To fully mine the potential of big data, firms must develop specific goals, then find the right tools to achieve them. They must knock down the walls that keep information in silos. Companies that don’t fully embrace today’s information economy and the open approach to data will eventually find themselves losing ground to peers. Big data may pose major challenges—but it’s a blessing, not a curse.
In order to successfully manage content, the data included in that content must be properly managed as well. By embracing the power of big data management and recognizing the harmful effects silos—both in data and content management—can have on organizations, Debra has instilled a fully modern and efficient content strategy at a firm known worldwide for creating such exceptionally useful content that they are known as “The Answer Company.” Other organizations should follow suit by knocking down the walls separating data, teams, content and more, and fostering mutual data sharing in order to operate more collaboratively and better serve customers.