A startup called Premise is doing amazing things with data capture on very micro levels to help solve macroeconomic problems, and its work should inspire new enterprise thinking on data. The premise of Premise is that nearly everyone on the planet is now carrying a data-gathering device on his or her person at all times, usually in the form of a smartphone. And that very micro personal data can be used in combination to make some very macro discoveries.
For instance, one example Premise gives is people going to their local markets and taking pictures of tomatoes. At first blush, this seems silly. But the changing number of tomatoes for sale, their color, their size, and their price changing over time can give clues to issues in the area like impending droughts, famines and food shortages, runaway inflation, or even social unrest. The information can act like intelligence for a government with little access to information about what is going on in some developing parts of the world.
Here’s a longer (and fascinating) explanation:
Of course, I’m not telling you that your enterprise should start a socially responsible microdata project to help developing countries. I’m not even going to ask you to be socially responsible (though I hope you are).
But I will say there are ways to take this very responsible concept and use it to capture data in a way that makes money. Remember the original "premise" is that all of your customers have data-capturing devices -- phones, tablets, etc.
What data would you like to capture that you don’t have the right to capture or the ability to access, but your customers do? For one, there's data on how they use your product. For another, there's information on where and when they use it. There are also the complementary products you don’t make that customers might use with your current products (and could sell in the future).
If you think about social media, a certain amount of this is happening naturally. How many people take a selfie when they buy a new, brand-name outfit? Or a new car?
The problem is that right now, this is an ad hoc reality at best. You have to get people to take the picture, tag your brand, and put it somewhere you can see and access. Companies troll Twitter and other places for these sorts of serendipitous moments. But what if you could encourage it, and use it to your advantage?
It is actually not that different from an IT concept you are very familiar with: the bug report. A piece of software crashes, and most software these days either automatically reports the crash or at least asks the user if it can make the report.
What if GM had done that before its recent round of recalls? Those recalls were sparked by ignition fires in dealer-owned Cadillacs. They had received “no reports” of customer issues. And yet 12 deaths have resulted from the failure in GM cars in general. Are we really believing the dealer-owned Cadillacs were the only to suffer the problem?
What if, for instance, GM built a community around sharing "your Cadillac story"? Pictures of you with your first Caddie, pictures of life moments with the Caddie, special Instagram channels, etc. And imagine that was designed around encouraging sharing the brand and the lifestyle around it as opposed to selling. Wouldn’t the data captured from these sources be invaluable? Wouldn’t changing consumer habits to share microdata like pictures of them using your product lead to discoveries about you and your brand?
As CIO, it is not your job to create social media strategy, but it is your job to enable it. How are your skills at capturing and filtering microdata like this and turning it into macrodata to allow for marketing (not to mention compliance and safety and sales and everyone else) to make business decisions?
Not good? I didn’t think so. But consider investing in it. It might just help you strengthen your business or avert a disaster.