For the past several decades, great effort has been spent to find ways to accurately assess the true value of information. "How can a company with only software for a product be measured in millions of dollars?," the pundits marveled as the concept of intellectual assets was discussed.
More recently, with the likes of Google[TM] and Facebook[TM], assessing a company's intangible assets remains difficult--and yet they're being measured in the hundreds of billions.
The notion that information has value is hardly new. Early mariners paid handsomely for primitive nautical charts they hoped might show submerged rocks or other lurking perils. Delivering information such as "the water is shallow here" or "the sea monster is hiding there" was all those early explorers might expect from the data technologies of their day. Because of the great risks they took (much of it due to inadequate information), sea captains were well rewarded for their efforts.
Today's captains of industry face their own perils--and potential rewards--but much the same process of finding and filtering their information. What does the guidance say? Which maps should we trust? Where are the risks? What are the threats to our crew? Which is the best course?
While not always keeping pace with the sheer volume, information processing technology has evolved to help filter it.
Robust database management, business intelligence and information analysis software are now commonplace. For the corporate world, these systems are today's equivalent to the best GPS navigational guidance. They sort, categorize and provide instant access to virtually any quantifiable data.
While a chart may show the water's depth or the distance to shore, it alone won't tell whether there's another ship--or hurricane--in the way. While the compass was a game changer for early navigation, when piloting in the fog a radar system in addition to GPS proves invaluable.
Nevertheless, the best navigational systems in the world can't fully replace local knowledge; wise captains always have someone on lookout for icebergs.
Decision guidance brings competitive advantage
Each information source ultimately serves the same purpose: to make better decisions. In the same vein, savvy business leaders make more informed decisions and gain a competitive edge by combining the best available quantifiable data with additional subtle information from sources that might otherwise be overlooked.
For example, while a credit report may...