A data lean organization is a fitter organization!

By Martijn Hunsche

Organizations are collecting more and more data in search of better business and new services. However, too much data makes one fat and unhealthy. This data obesity leads to high management burdens and an increasing risk of data breaches. Organizations must learn to discard data to regain control of their own data. After lean processes, a plea for lean data.

Data lean organization 
Big Data and Analytics 
Information Security measures

In earlier times when we scavenged across the African steppe as hunter-gatherers, our gathering behavior was driven by scarcity. Anything edible or otherwise useful for basic necessities of life was collected and taken. After all, you never knew when it might come in handy. 

Fast forward to today. The behavior of many organizations bears a striking resemblance to this past situation. Replace food with data and you have organizations scouring the environment - the Internet - for data. In an era of Big Data and Analytics, data seems to be the primary necessity of life for organizations. The amount of data keeps growing and is available anywhere, anytime. Organizations can't get enough of it and are collecting suds. After all, you never know... With the ultimate dream of having their own data lake, the source of all knowledge and wisdom within the organization. Why scarcity? 

Technically, there are almost no limits, storage costs are falling, processing capacity is rising, access is anywhere, anytime. Businesswise, organizations also seem compelled by competition to collect more and more data. The more data the better the service, and the fitter the organization for the competitive battle. It seems like this data obesity ostensibly leads to a fitter organization. But does it really? 

Of course, there is a downside to the collecting frenzy of organizations: for example, that one customer who has had enough of the aggressive marketing or the sense of invasion of his or her privacy.  The really big dangers, however, lie in data leakage: "data leakage. 

And this is where the comparison between food and data goes awry on some essential properties: data can be copied, it does not spoil and the collection only grows. Data leakage is an invasion of privacy when it comes to personal data and a nightmare when it comes to business-sensitive data. Because data is easy to copy and perusal does not affect the data, this form of theft is difficult to detect. Preventing data leakage sets the bar high for adequate information security measures. Measures that must also keep up with the times (progress in technology) and thus not only involve initial costs but also permanently weigh into the management burden. Costs that also increase with the size of the data collection. 

All in all, enough reason to take a hard look at your own organization's data collection. What do you still really need? And what is ballast? The distinction between personal and other data is of course important. In practice, the vast majority of stored data turns out to be personal data according to the law. And the larger the data collection, the faster it is possible, with a clever combination of data, to trace it back to natural persons. Exactly what is preached as an advantage from the Big Data side, now turns out to be an Achilles heel from a security perspective. With smaller data collection, controlling data quality becomes possible again. And better quality data delivers better value in operations and services. 

In short, here is a plea to curb the collection frenzy and take a really good look at your data collection. What does the data landscape look like? What data did you really use last year? And what for? What data are you allowed to use by laws and regulations, and for how long? 

What is the quality of decision-making based on my data? What risks do I run by storing and using the data? In other words, what do you really need and what can be jettisoned and permanently removed. A data lean organization is a fitter organization! 

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