Data Driven: Profiting from your most important business asset

by Thomas C. Redman

Written for business managers, this book is about managing data as an asset. As with any asset, data only create value when used, as opposed to merely being stored. Data can support internal processes and decisions or it can be sold to external customers.

There are two chapters on data quality, but this topic is a central theme throughout the entire book. “It costs ten times as much to complete a unit of work when the input data are defective… as it does when the input data are perfect.” Redman stresses the importance of preventing erroneous data at the point of creation. His data lake analogy illustrates this point. Imagine a lake of polluted data fed by polluted streams (business processes). Cleaning the lake is futile unless you first address the sources polluting the streams.

The data quality maturity level is a five-point scale: 1) unconscious; 2) lake cleaner; 3) enlightened; 4) competitor; and 5) world beater. Using survey data from a university study, Redman determined that 90% of companies fall within the bottom two levels. Only 2% fall within the top two levels; clearly these firms have a competitive advantage.

Redman presents a customer-supplier model, recognizing those who provide inputs to your process as suppliers, and those who receive your outputs as customers. Suppliers and customers may be internal or external. In most cases, customers don’t want more data. (Data mining is an exception.) They generally want exactly the right data and information at the right time and in the right format to make whatever decision is needed.

The book describes the difficulties of implementing ambitious data management initiatives and recommends starting on a small scale.

On page 29 Redman writes, “As every manager knows, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  Well, not everyone. The late quality guru W. Edwards Deming (who is mentioned twice in the book) wrote in The New Economics, “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it—a costly myth.”

Redman, Thomas C. Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press, 2008. Buy from

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