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A New Data Metaphor for All Seasons

A few weeks ago, I spent three days with hundreds of customers at our recent conference focused on data analytics, experimentation and innovation. Unsurprisingly, we spoke quite a bit about the power, potential and protection of data. One big takeaway? People today use a lot of metaphors as it relates to data.

Data as the new oil or the new gold, representing data as a commodity with a high-value price tag.

Data as the sun that shines on everything, representing data as a public good that drives universal benefits.

The data tsunami or the data deluge, representing the fact that businesses everywhere are grappling with how to turn ever-increasing volumes of data into actionable insights.

To me, the metaphors above don’t quite work. Yes, data has a clear value and benefit: to individuals and businesses. Data also has a clear owner: the individual who produces it. Actionable insights are possible, with the right partners, tools and understanding.

Ultimately, the metaphor that works for me is that we’re in the springtime of data analytics.

What does that really mean?

Data is still new and fresh. We are still in the early days of data and have endless opportunity ahead of us to do amazing things for business, for individuals, for society. We’re unlocking the power of data analytics for our customers, helping banks, retailers and others be more efficient, effective and solve real world problems with insights. With Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, we have also been supporting research and forging partnerships to accelerate the use of data science by empowering non-profit, civic and government organizations with the tools, expertise and other capabilities they need to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges – such as how communities can better prepare for hurricanes.

The world of data is just heating up. In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of new capabilities, new fields like data science and new roles like the chief data officer position as the potential of data is taken more seriously across the public and private sectors. One capability that has emerged and impacted nearly all sectors is the ability to make products and services more relevant – or personalized – for the consumer. According to a Mastercard-sponsored survey of more than 600 executives by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 8 in 10 survey respondents said personalization is important to their organization’s strategy.

Umbrellas are needed to protect against spring’s stormy weather. As an industry, we need to ensure ethical data practices so data innovation has the opportunity to grow and live up to its potential. We have an obligation now to put consumer-centric guidelines in place that will keep companies on the right track and protect the interests of individuals. For instance, high-potential areas like digital identity should be guided by a principled approach, which is why we built digital identity principles that put people first. And, innovations that ensure consumer privacy, such as Trūata’s data anonymization service that allows for business analytics in full compliance with the GDPR, will be critical.

Springtime is upon us. Umbrella in hand, the time is right to partner—with customers, the public sector, fintechs and others—to make smarter, sustainable decisions with data.