Putting a value on big data is key to getting CEOs on board

By Derek du Preez
08 Nov 2011 View Comments

The value of big data will not be understood by CEOs until it is monetised on the balance sheet as an asset, argued delegates at a Computing roundtable on big data last week.

Julian Morgan, partner at management consultancy firm Kurt Salmon, kicked off the debate by arguing that big data is not on a CEO's agenda and is rarely understood by the CFO.

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"Is the opportunity that big data presents on the agenda of decision makers within our corporations?

"Is it a CEO agenda item? I have to say, when I talk about information as an asset, CEOs and CFOs certainly don't get it," said Morgan.

"CIOs get it, but other members of the board don't understand its importance, because it is never expressed as a value," he added.

This claim was supported by Greg Smith, CIO at distribution company Yodel, who suggested that companies need to develop a financial record that reflects the value of data as an asset.

"All businesses now have two balance sheets and two profit and losses. They have a financial one and an information one. The trouble is that the information balance sheet and information profit and loss aren't shared and aren't explicitly recorded," said Smith.

"The minute we start seeing that a company's value is as much about the information they hold as their bank balance, then we will see data being treated as a true asset," he added.

David Rajan, director of technology for Oracle, agreed with the other delegates, and said that he had conducted some research that found that 77 per cent of CIOs said they thought data should appear on the balance sheet as a key metric to define the value of a business.

Smith went on to argue that this is becoming even more pertinent as some mergers and acquisitions can only be explained by attributing value to a company's information.

"We know these things are happening – people are valuing businesses based on their information worth, even though it doesn't appear on the traditional profit and loss and balance sheet," said Smith.

"I think it is only a matter of time before we effectively have two different currencies that drive business; a financial currency and an information currency."


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