Esa Alhoniemi

By Esa Alhoniemi

Principal Data Scientist

esa.alhoniemi@vincit.fi
+358 41 517 7041

LinkedIn

Data provides some undeniable benefits when it comes to running a business: it will not only gain you insights on the state of the business environment and help you prepare for any oncoming changes but it can also be used to develop new business and strengthen existing operations. The thing to bear in mind, though, is that data doesn’t hold any intrinsic value – if you want to turn it into profit, you need to be put it to work. In this article, I will help you to do this by introducing three key points you should consider when acquiring data services.

Every company has data. Instead of storing it on a server or in the cloud to gather dust, the data should be put to work and used to support your business. The most typical reason for not doing so is that the company doesn’t have the technology or skills needed to process and analyze the data they possess. This is where a reliable partner comes in handy, but teaming up isn’t something you should rush into: before signing any papers with your prospective data service partner, make sure that you’ve discussed the following three points:

  • Added value for business
  • Type of data available
  • Opportunities and limitations of your own operational environment

1. Added value for business

Before doing anything else, make sure that you take a moment to assess your business goals: what is it you want to achieve and what steps do you need to take in order to reach your goal. The objectives of your business will determine how and for what purpose you should be using your data services.

The desire to opt for short-term, affordable and easily budgetable concept development is understandable, but if the result doesn’t truly connect with your business needs, you are in for a major disappointment. If your business isn’t taken into account or no attention is paid to the added value, the result can easily end up being a collection of irrelevant, nice-to-know data, which will only end up increasing the size of your garbage heap once it’s been looked at once.

In sum, make sure that your data isn’t analyzed just for the fun of it and that your data genuinely serves the objectives of your business, creating added value.

2. Type of data available

Second, remember to account for the type of data available. What data are you or have you been gathering? What is the content, scope and quality of the data (being) gathered? How can you access your data? Data services are often based on extensive history data, which makes it important to understand how data changes – and has changed – over the years.

Companies that aren’t data-driven have typically had no need to pay attention to data apart from making sure that they have enough of it to run their business. When it comes to these companies, developing business-supporting data services may require more extensive groundwork, including integrations, analytics databases or new procedures for collecting data and assuring its quality. Sometimes you may also need to employ entirely new data sources.

To give an example, the water safety service LeakLook wanted to get to the root of household water damage causes using data and AI. When the existing solutions proved ineffective, a customized, machine vision-based AI was developed for reading old analog meters. The AI was trained for the job with data material collected specifically for the purpose.

Even though doing the groundwork will take some time, it should be carried out with care – investing time in doing the work properly will pay itself back. If you decide to cut corners here, you will soon notice that the data can’t be used to inform any insights and that your business won’t get the added value initially intended. As they say, there’s no fast track to success.

3. Opportunities and limitations of your own operational environment

Third, it’s a good idea to take a realistic look at the opportunities your own operational environment can offer, on the one hand, and any limitations it may impose on the use of data services, on the other. The company’s business processes and IT set requirements for the competences of the data service providers as well as technology. If the company operates in a Google Cloud environment, for example, it doesn’t make sense to engage with a partner that specializes in Azure.

The novelty of data analytics and acquiring data services may render them suspicious and even a little intimidating to some companies. Getting acquainted with the topic doesn’t require reinventing the wheel, however: ask for references on finished projects and arrange an interview with the supplier’s prospective team. This allows you to ensure that the team has the competence and experience needed to carry out the work. Lastly, remember the simplest, though not the least significant, advice of all: use common sense in all your assessments.

Okay, then what?

If you’ve managed to check off all the items on the list, you are probably on your way to acquiring a data service that your company and business can truly benefit from.

There’s one more thing to consider, however. When planning to acquire data services, the company itself may not have the ability to assess the opportunities the data services may bring. That’s why, once the company has first taken certain measures to internally define its business needs, it may be beneficial to get in contact with some potential partners and ask for help in sparring and challenging ideas. It’s not a bad idea to go through the three items on the list once more – this time with the potential partner – to make sure that all the boxes can be checked off together.

If acquiring data services is on your agenda and you want to exchange ideas on how you can harness data in service of your business needs, send us a message or give us a call and we’ll talk some more!

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