Magazine article Information Today

Whose Data Is It, Anyway?

Magazine article Information Today

Whose Data Is It, Anyway?

Article excerpt

Ask CRM (client relationship management) administrators about who owns the data populating their CRM systems, and you will likely get one of two emphatic answers: "my company" or "me." Companies dedicate significant amounts of manpower, dollars, and research collecting and maintaining the data that is the lifeblood of their business, and they are naturally protective of it. But who really "owns" it? And how have the ways we approach, access, and interact with this information affected our perspectives on data ownership?

Data ownership implies both possession and responsibility, and recently, we've seen how a shift in our Web-based practices has altered the way we perceive and interact with information. Professionals, students, and consumers alike readily rely on Web-based searches to find the information they need. They actively contribute to or develop content online. They engage in social networking to share information. Possession and responsibility are now intrinsically linked to group collaboration and stewardship.

Accordingly, it is interesting to explore how the democratization and transparency of data, as influenced by Web-based practices, have altered notions of data ownership. In business-to-business environments, the basic building blocks of CRM data are straightforward: contact data and company data. Despite the intention of many CRM administrators, there never was, could be, or will be "ownership" of this basic data. It is nonproprietary information. And as we shift to the Web to find and share contact information, we are seeing data becoming increasingly transparent. The result: The gap between the haves and the have-nots is closing, and the business landscape is transforming.

Much in the same way the Wall Street elite used to leverage the gap between their knowledge and that of a layman for immense (and often illegal) gain, a parallel can be made in the way companies and individuals used to hoard valuable contact information to gain a competitive edge. While regulatory standards forced Wall Street to bring transparency into its business practices, it is the Internet that levels the playing field by giving real-time information to those looking to find it.

Before the advent of Web 2.0, a salesperson could cold-call a prospect, have a reasonable chance of getting him or her on the phone, and, with finesse, likely close a sale. Just being the first to get to the prospect was a huge advantage, and in this world, the larger companies had a distinct advantage. They could hire more sales reps and buy more data; they were the elite of sales. …

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