Data – and extracting value from it – has become the fuel of digital transformation. The insights in data can tell you what your customers need or desire, and how they want to receive it. They can help you optimize sales, manufacturing, and distribution, or any other aspect of your business operations. With the right data and insights, you can discover new opportunities and potential unseen risks, or develop new products, services, and business models.

Yet not every business is taking full advantage. In fact, the analysts at IDC have identified two distinct enterprise profiles for this era: the digital achievers, who “have been able to successfully move to more data-centric business models and are flourishing” and the digital laggards, who “have not (and as a result are experiencing significant challenges in terms of important business metrics like revenue growth).” Where the achievers are harnessing hybrid cloud strategies, new storage technologies, analytics, AI, and automation, the laggards are falling behind in their data-driven strategy. That’s a problem when, as Forrester predicts, companies mastering a data-centric approach could collectively earn a global revenue upward of $1.8 trillion by the end of next year.

This makes it crucial that CIOs start thinking of themselves as data stewards, getting actively involved in data sourcing, processing, and governance, and helping ensure that data drives IT and business strategy going forward.

What does this mean? First, it means gathering the right data, and that starts with creating an inventory of all the data produced and stored within the business. Who and what is producing it? Where is it used? Where is it stored? Once you understand this, you can start to align the data with your business objectives and consider what value it might hold.

McKinsey has suggested getting creative about data sources, too, bringing in data from social media and other unstructured forms of data, along with data from IoT sensors and monitored processes, or even local news reports and weather forecasts. These sources can help you build the bigger picture.

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