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In 1848, prospectors struck gold in California, kicking off a seven-year rush that brought around 300,000 people to the state to try their luck. During this period, people developed increasingly advanced techniques in an attempt to extract every ounce of value they could from streams.

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But over time, the returns dwindled. Surface gold started to disappear, so more invasive—and expensive—techniques were needed to unearth gold from the land. The rush ended when it was no longer feasible for individuals to make a living panning for this precious resource. Almost as quickly as it began, the California gold rush ended in 1855, forcing people who’d traveled many miles to find another way to make a living.

The good news is that many resources are less finite than gold—meaning the more people have access, the more powerful and beneficial these resources become. Data is a great example in today’s business landscape. The more people have access to data within an organization, the more benefit that organization derives. The value of data isn’t correlated to its scarcity. So, companies never have to worry about running out like prospectors did with nuggets of gold.

What companies do need to get the maximum value from data is a system capable of turning raw data into a genuinely usable resource. Here’s more on how to achieve this goal.

Capitalizing on the Value of Data

Now let’s look at a different resource that changed the world – electricity.

When electricity began to light cities up after dark, people’s behavior changed. They were able to stay out later. The ability to install elevators meant buildings could be taller—increasing the density of cities. Mass transit changed to include electric means of transportation. Electricity was the product, but enhanced quality of life was the outcome—and the value of electricity only compounded as more people and public places got access to it. Electricity is a resource best shared; rather than decreasing in value as more people tapped into its power, it became more valuable to society as a whole.

Now think of data as the product. With the right tools, organizations today can use stored data to drive better business outcomes, like increased revenue and decreased internal inefficiency. This process is known as data monetization. Thanks to more accessible data analytics, data has become a currency in its own right—one that grows more valuable when spread and shared, like electricity. But, to cash in, companies must have a comprehensive strategy in place to turn millions or billions of rows of data points into actionable insights.

As Information Week notes, most organizations know they’re sitting on “a wealth of data.” But many lack the ability to capitalize on its potential value “because technological and cultural challenges often stand in the way.”

It pays to consider how your company regards data. Are you doing everything you can to get insights into the hands of people who need it—in a format they can easily understand? Only then can you reap the benefits of “turning the lights on” across your organization.

Overcoming Obstacles to Getting Value from Stored Data

Companies must clear a few hurdles in order to reap the valuable benefits of data: collecting it in the right place, modeling it for self-service and building a culture of data literacy so employees can find and act on whatever insights they uncover.

It used to take a lot of behind-the-scenes work from data scientists to devise a system that allowed for the storage and retrieval of data. But one thing modern business intelligence (BI) platforms like ThoughtSpot have done is simplify manual data modeling, allowing users to enter direct queries like “weekly sales last quarter” and get the answers they need in seconds.

Simplifying how non-technical users access data analytics means they can ask questions as they arise rather than having to wait on static reports from the data team. This increases the chances organizations will be successful in monetizing their data, because these users can take the insights they’ve gleaned and act upon them—provided company culture empowers them to do so.

According to a release from PR Newswire, the data monetization market will likely increase by a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent, increasing from $1.42 billion to more than $3 billion by 2023. Why? “The growing usage of external data sources, advanced analytics, and visualization techniques to make insightful decisions from a large pool of data.”

Data’s a valuable resource. But it’s more helpful to think of it like electricity than gold. The value isn’t in rushing to extract value before it runs out; the value lies in building a sustainable system for extracting insights and using them to “illuminate” the path to better business outcomes. Focus on creating a system with the right data analytics tools to turn heaps of stored data into usable business intelligence.

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