Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Data Collection and the Modern Battlefields of Business

Dr. John Snow's Map
In 1854 Cholera broke out in the Soho neighborhood of London.  Hundreds of people were struck down and died within days.  No one, at the time understood where the disease came from, how to treat it or how it was transmitted.

A local physician, Dr. John Snow spent every possible moment of his day studying the victims and data in an attempt to understand the disease.  His biggest challenge was a lack of data.  He had only the list of the dead and a blank map of the neighborhood.  What he needed was more data.  This was solved when he met the local priest, Henry Whitehouse.  Whitehouse had recorded the time of death, and the location where all the families lived and died.  When these sources of data where combined, and then overlaid on a map, visual patterns emerged which ultimately led the two to see the common denominator for all the victims was drinking contaminated water from the Broad Street water pump.

The pump handle was removed, people stopped drinking its water, and the disease burned out.  Dr. John Snow is now recognized as one of the fathers of modern epidemiology.  The data that led to his discoveries were:
  • Victims
  • Relationships
  • Locations
  • Time of illness
  • Time of death
  • Behaviors and patterns of life
Adding all of these data sources to a map, for visual reference and clarity, enabled the insight that ultimately revealed the source and means of transmission of the disease.  Minus key data sources, the disease would have remained a mystery and many more people would have died.

In business, many challenges and obstacles today can also be solved with better data collection strategies and enhanced analytics.  We have all heard the phrase, "knowledge is power."  Knowledge comes from data, so data is power.

I sincerely believe that the battlefields of business today are around data.  The winners of today and tomorrow will be those better able to collect, analyze, understand and apply data to the customization and personalization of digital interactions.  My colleagues Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring wrote the book "Code Halos" last year to dive deep into these ideas.

Last week I published a new thought leadership whitepaper on the application of real-time data strategies and analytics to mobile commerce and consumer facing mobile applications.  The paper is titled, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me."  You can download the whitepaper here http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf.

Kevin Benedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.