What is the value of Data?


My favorite event of the year is the Defence Information conference held annually in the UK. It brings together the leading Ministry of Defence and Uniformed Services IT executives to talk about a range of topics. This year’s theme was about the Valuing Information as an Asset.

This year I was honored to give a brief keynote and chose as my topic the value of interpretation of data in a session I called Being Evangelical about Data. I was inspired to talk about the difference between collecting data, analyzing data and interpreting data.

Like all military organizations across the world: the MoD is looking to improve the efficiency in the systems they use that support the missions they have. One significant change that has been implemented is a joint logistics force that delivers the food, equipment, spare parts, ammunition and everything that is needed in theaters of operation. As the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines all use the same makes of equipment (such as the Apache Helicopter) it makes sense to have all the parts managed by one, new, service called the Joint Supply Chain (JSC).

The first question asked when all the inventory came under the control of the JSC was, “What is the value of the inventory managed?” The answer came back that it was about £40bn (about $64bn). Quite something, as this was not able to be calculated before.

So here we have Data giving Information. But further analysis showed that, while the MoD could tell how much the inventory was worth, they could not tell, for the most part, where it was located. And now we have Information giving Insight. And now, the next step in improving the logistical capabilities of the MoD, is to make inventory tracking much better.

My presentation took all of this to the next level and left the audience with one of my favorite quotes from a Serena customer in Chicago. Our customer implemented the Orchestrated-IT approach across the entire development lifecycle from requirements through development and testing into change and release management and all the way to deployment. The director of the Change and Release Management team told me “I used to spend all of my time fighting fires … I now spend all of my time finding out who is starting them”.

During the breaks many of the project leaders came to the Serena exhibit to talk about how they too can use process improvement and automation to give them control, repeatability and insight. It is so interesting to talk to customers about their organizations and their approach to developing and deploying applications. It is fascinating to have these discussions with members of our armed forces whose mission is complicated by deploying applications into the most hostile environments.

We thanked them for their service. We will be working with many of them over the next months so that they too can get insight from their data.

About Kevin

In the past year Kevin has spoken at 20 conferences and seminars on a range of leading IT topics, including methodologies, business analysis, quality assurance techniques, governance, open source issues, tool interoperability, release management, DevOps, Agile, ITIL, from the mainframe to distributed platforms to the web, mobile, wearable and embedded systems. He is a much sought after speaker, recognized around the world for his provocative and entertaining style. Kevin is a 40 year industry veteran, holder of three technology patents and today is VP of Worldwide Marketing and Chief Evangelist at leading Application Development and Deployment vendor Serena Software. In the past decade he has been crossing the globe and has met with over 4,000 people. At Serena he works closely with industry analysts, the press, customers, partners and employees to exchange ideas about industry direction and business issues. He was born and educated in the UK and lives and works in the Bay Area, California.
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