Your data: new oil or new asbestos?

We’ve all heard that data may be the new oil, but recently we’ve been hearing some dissenting voices, including suggestions that data could be the new asbestos. The truth is, data has the capacity to be both, and the difference between it being oil or being asbestos is all down to how you look after it.

How is that?

Let’s take GDPR. Although it is an evolutionary response to existing privacy laws in Europe, the impact is still hugely significant. A tipping point for effective data governance, GDPR essentially requires a business to fully understand and tightly control the entire life-cycle of personal data. That’s not easy, but it’s a gargantuan task if, as with most businesses, your data flows resemble this:

As a result of years of loose data governance, almost every business needs data governance practices to be re-considered, re-engineered and re-implemented to provide a stable foundation for GDPR compliance beyond May 2018..

But why does it matter? Let’s get back to oil or asbestos. The value of data to the organisation as a marketing tool can be enormous. Indeed, the Chief Marketing Officer will place a huge value on marketing databases. But how many of them are accurate, in-date, and viable? Where these databases contain doubtful or inaccurate data, their value diminishes. Now there is the GDPR question: how many details have been collected in compliance with GDPR? This is critical, because marketing without consent could lead to a significant penalty, and from next year, claims from disgruntled data subjects. In those circumstances, the residual value in the database has turned into a cost – it has become asbestos that needs to be dismantled and disposed of.


But just imagine if the data is accurate, up-to-date and entirely viable. It’s clean and healthy and, whats more, because it was collected in compliance with GDPR, you have certainty it will not create a cost.  Now the database really does have a value – it has become oil.

So, where does your business fit in the spectrum between oil and asbestos?

There is no alchemy here, although there will be considerable complexity.  That complexity needs to be overcome so your business effectively manages the complete data resource to extract more value from it. Putting your data at the core of the business, where it’s governance is a priority, strips out the asbestos and creates a data-centric resource that will be the benchmark for the future.