Data exchange should not be feared, it should be embraced

By Christina Hargreaves, Consultant

The potential of the digital revolution is huge. If humans, machines and industrial processes can be intelligently networked then individual products of better quality can be created more quickly and with more competitive development and manufacturing costs. The digitalisation of the value chain is opening up a whole range of new opportunities. A key factor in the success of digital change is to embrace cross partner and cross industry data exchange.

Traditionally the idea of sharing company specific data to a wider group or audience goes against every fibre of competitor behaviour, but industry is recognising that building an ecosystem where organisations can be enabled to share information on agreed terms, and with privacy and security guaranteed, can be a move towards positive collaboration. The idea of data exchange is not to monetise the value of data, but to share information that can help solve problems or roadblocks in the development or manufacturing process thereby benefitting all. By enhancing how we use information it is possible to share solutions, reducing problem solving within individual organisations. Areas such as quality management, logistics, maintenance, supply chain management and sustainability can be developed to help to boost productivity and improve sustainability along future value chains when data is shared.

Innovation is a process that works best in an open structure and where this traditionally might have meant data and ideas sharing within a corporation, successful innovation now requires external ideas, knowledge and experience. Increasingly these data sources are not just outside companies, but often outside entire industries. Industry 4.0 has driven every company to consider itself as a tech company, or at least a company that requires digital skill sets. One strategy for traditionally non tech organisations has been to recruit outside of industry verticals to satisfy the skills gap and increase data recording, reading, managing and strategy from within. Industries are now in need of individuals who can deliver on transformative solutions while still understanding the core needs of the business from product design, manufacturing and supply chain perspective. If data can be exchanged, knowledge can be shared, reducing industry wide skill gaps. This is where data exchange can really make sense. With the help of a networked data infrastructure, providing access to data and information can help develop industry standards, reducing cost, development time and time to market. As part of the ongoing value chain, standardisation also supports a more efficient supply chain.

Cross industry data exchange must involve coordinated data collaboration in a structured and secure environment. Firms need to establish structures and processes that facilitate organised learning across traditional industry boundaries. In finance, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and education the benefits of collaborative sharing are obvious. Housing data in one governed central location could produce the biggest pain point however. The immediate issues of data security and format being at the forefront of what must be considered. Organisations all store and access data in different ways so processes to build an accessible sharable and democratic data solution need to be found and built in each scenario.

Executives should consider other opportunities for partnerships emerging from data sharing in the longer term too. The potential for mass collaboration in cross-sector data sharing will only play a larger role in innovation as technology becomes more ubiquitous and organisations grow more comfortable with sharing data. Long talked about solutions to combat misinformation, tackle worldwide health issues or working towards a more sustainable future are becoming viable topics to consider.


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